Day 9 – Today is the day of mosaics in Jordan

By December 3, 2019Jordan, Middle East

We continue to tell you about out three weeks in Israel and Jordan and as always I am going to let my mom start with here Facebook posts during the trip.

[Mom – September 15, 2019 – We are still in Jordan. Our adventures today started with a visit to Karak Castle which was a former Crusader stronghold. Our next stop was the Amm Ar-Rasas ruins where we were able to see several churches and some beautiful mosaic floors. We then traveled to the Greek Orthdox Church of St. George in Madeba. Here we saw a mosaic map of Israel and Jordan that was created in the 6th century. Other beautiful mosaics featured the life of Christ and portraits of the apostles.

Tonight we are staying in a lovely Ramada Inn on the north shore of the Dead Sea. Some things we have learned about Jordan today include:

1. Speed bumps are everywhere including in the middle of nowhere and the speed limit is 60 mph. Additionally, the warning signs for them are usually visible about the time you hit one.

2. Road construction is present around the world and if you try to drive over a pile of gravel, even in Jordan, you will get stuck! As Bill told Shane as we started down the gravel road through the construction, “You know that a Sherman tank and rent car are alike because they are both considered off road vehicles.” As we were sitting straddle of the gravel pile, he remarked, “I guess a Sherman tank is a bit higher in the middle though!”

3. You can find Mickey Mouse even in Jordan!]

Kerak Castle was begun in 1140 and became the center of power in the area, replacing the weaker castle of Shobak to the south. Due to its position east of the Dead Sea, Kerak Castle was able to control Bedouin herders as well as the trade routes from Damascus to Egypt and Mecca. This castle was exciting to see because it was mostly intact and you could really get a sense of the history within its walls. With that said it was not inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1985 because the committee stated there were better maintained examples of crusader castles elsewhere.

Um er-Rasas on the other hand did become a World Heritage Site in 2004 due to the large, intact mosaic floor of the Church of St Stephen created in 785AD (see cover photo). After the Muslims retook the Holy Land the floor was covered and the mosaic was not rediscovered until 1986. The perfectly preserved mosaic floor is the largest in Jordan. In the central panel, hunting and fishing scenes are depicted, while another panel illustrates the most important cities of the region including Philadelphia (Amman), Madaba, Esbounta (Heshbon), Belemounta (Ma’an), Areopolis (Ar-Rabba), Charac Moaba (Karak), Jerusalem, Nablus, Caesarea, and Gaza. The frame of the mosaic is especially decorative and six mosaic masters signed the work. The floor of St Stephen overlays another, damaged, mosaic floor of the earlier Church of Bishop Sergius. Scatter around Um er-Rasas you can find four other churches with traces of mosaic decoration.

Church of St George in Madaba with the mosaic map

While the mosaic floor at St Stephen was unbelievable it was the mosaic map at Madaba that I loved the most. This map of the Holy Land was created in the mid 6th century AD and depicts an area from Lebanon to the Nile Delta and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Eastern Desert. The map shows around 150 towns (labeled in Greek) including Jerusalem, Neapolis, Askalon, Gaza, Pelusium, Charachmoba, palm-ringed Jericho, Bethlehem and other biblical-Christian sites. All of them nearly detailed enough to be described as street maps.

Since we got to Church of St. George in Madaba just before closing time we still had a little time left to squeeze in one more site since it was outdoors. I wanted to check out some 3000-4000 year old dolmans (burial chambers) in the hills west of Madeba. Sadly I could not find much info on them and the GPS coordinates I did find turned out to be inaccurate, so we finally drove to the north end of the Dead Sea arriving just after dark.

 

Make sure you join us tomorrow because I am going to have vlog (video blog) about the Dead Sea and Jesus’s baptismal site that you will want to check out.

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