Mount Nebo and the Mosaic City

When we left the Dead Sea, we first reached Mount Nebo, the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land before his death.

The Brazen Serpent sculpture
Mount Nebo – a windy area above the River Jordan valley
Jordan valley

Beside of the view from the mountain, the Christian church from Byzantine times was what brought us here. It was only rediscovered in 1933, but was first constructed in the second half of the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses’ death. It was enlarged in the late fifth century AD and rebuilt in 597 AD. Today, a modern church is covering the remains to protect the incredible mosaics and to provide a place of worship at the same time.

Especially this floor in the baptistery was fantastic. At the bottom row you can see an ostrich, a zebra and a camel-like giraffe or giraffe-like camel, not sure about that. The next row shows a shepherd with his animals under trees, and above are hunting scenes. The colours of the stones were fantastic.

Old and new, this church was a great mixture of both, making it not only an historic sight but also a place to worship for Christians.

At the museum next to the church, there was one artefact we were looking for: a milestone from the Roman road nearby. It felt fantastic to stand next to one of these stones, which once served as a waymark on the Roman network of roads.

Our next stop was at Madaba, the capital of mosaics, which dates already from the Bronze Age.

The town of Madaba was once a Moabite border city, mentioned in the Bible. Control over the city changed back and forth between Israel and Moab. During its rule by the Roman and Byzantine empires from the 2nd to the 7th centuries, the city formed part of the Provincia Arabia set up by the Roman Emperor Trajan to replace the Nabataean kingdom of Petra.

The first evidence of a Christian community in the city, with its own bishop, was from 451. Until today there is a Christian community in Madaba, Orthodox and Catholic, with bells that call the believers to church in addition to the muezzin with his speakers in all directions.

Ruins of a villa with the mosque in the background

We left our camper at the Visitor Centre, where we got a map with a route to all the sights. This route is marked with a line on the pave walk, so that no tourists can get lost in Madaba.

Detail of the Hippolytus Hall mosaic 
Hippolytus Hall – mosaics from the 6th century
The famous Tree of Life mosaic in the Church of St Elijah
Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George

The St. George church was under renovation, all the plaster with paintings had been removed from the walls, no idea why, but luckily, the famous mosaic map was nevertheless on display.

Famous Map of Madaba mosaic with Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and all the cities around it

We strolled off the tourist route, to have lunch at a bookshop / restaurant called Kawon bookstore. It is the only bookshop in Madaba and also provides delicious food in the garden of the old house.

Kitchen door
Lemonade with mint – very refreshing

Finally, we reached the Beheading of St. John the Baptist Church, what a name! After visiting the church and exploring all the old structures underneath, we climbed the church tower with its bells and enjoyed the view from the top.

In the late afternoon, we tried to find a place with Dolmen, but we didn’t succeed. After driving on rocky tracks past farms and houses spread over the countryside, without spotting any of the megalithic tombs, we gave up and searched for a place for the night instead. Next to a small road leading down to the Dead Sea, we found a place with an incredible view. After sunset, the lights revealed the cities of Israel on the other side of the lake.

Lights of Israel

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