MADABA (مأدبا)

Finding some exit from Desert Hwy towards the amiable market town of Madaba was difficult. Even the traffic police officers were unsure how to get off the highway, but we made it. We parked at a friendly gated visitors center, from where it’s an easy 1.5-hour walk to cover all main sites with a well-known collection of Byzantine-era mosaics. The most famous is the map on the floor of St George’s Church (🎟️ 1 JOD). Another highlight is the tunnels housing the Acropolis Museum under still active early-20th-century Roman Catholic Church of the Beheading of John the Baptist (🎟️ 1 JOD). There, we climbed the steep metal ladders with handrails and a bit of skill maneuvering around the bells and bell ropes, but it was worth the effort for the best panorama in Madaba. There is also a well dating to the Moabite era, 3000 years ago, which is still operational.

Dating back to around 4500 years, Madaba is noted in the Bible for the notable conquest by King Sihon of Heshbon. Though very little evidence of the city’s royal past remains, some churches and pathways still have remnants of the Byzantine era. The mosaics adorning these ancient buildings named Madaba ‘City of Mosaics.’

Madaba is a bustling little town with a large Christian community. It was a shocking change for us after two weeks spent in Jordan. The city is clean and has a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere. This charm makes it one of the most welcoming Jordanian cities. Along with its stunning Byzantine designs, Madaba is the perfect place for shopping (goods have price tags) and dining, with several good restaurants and coffee shops. It’s small, but we stayed here for two days to relax and stroll around. We even got our best exchange rate in Jordan in the Swiss Exchange (1 EUR / 0,762 JOD).

We had a great dinner at Fokhar and Bhar Restaurant (Rosemary Mushrooms – 3 JOD, Lentil soup – 2 JOD, Mansaf Chicken – 5 JOD, Shish Tavouk – 6 JOD, Lemon-Mint Juice – 3 JOD, Water – 1,5 l / 1,5 JOD). The next day, we tried local fast food (Chicken kebab roll – 2,5 JOD, Matrix orange soda – 0,75 JOD, Banana milkshake – 2 JOD). Don’t miss visiting Planet Donuts, the first donut shop in Jordan (since 1995), to try some donut creations (1 JOD / PC).

Parking location – Madaba: 31.716254N 35.796732E (🚻)