Mosaics, as Metaphor

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

The small city of Madaba, not far from the capital Amman, is known as the ‘Queen of Mosaics‘.

It is a worthy distinction for more than one reason, and on a much grander scale then the small size of the city.

It is home to the oldest surviving depiction of the Holy Land as a part of a larger map of the Middle East. Dating back to the 6th century AD, the map is a complex mosaic on the floor of the Greek Orthodox Saint George Church. The details are exquisite, having been brought back to life in the 1960s with restoration of those parts which survived earthquake, fires and other phenomenons.

Madaba Mosaic Jordan

Madaba Mosaics Jordan 2

Mosaics are obvious representatives of the population of the city and of Jordan at large. In Madaba itself, a strong Christian community still exists. At specific times, it is possible to hear the Muslim call to prayer and church bells ringing simultaneously.

Being a peaceful country in an unstable region, Jordan has also become a safe haven for refugees. Thirteen camps are permanently erected, some dating back to the original exodus from Palestine in 1948 (it continues, and almost 2 million Palestinians now live in the country). Since then Jordan has taken in many who were escaping conflict, most recently opening its borders to 60,000 Syrians.

For a small country of 6 million, that is significant. And it is with no surprise then that the first word we heard out of any Jordanian’s mouth was: “Welcome.”

Jordan making mosaics

The tradition of making mosaics is strong in Jordan and specifically Madaba, the patterns often depicting important cultural tales. Such intricate compilations, whether of the decorative or human kind, require steadfast dedication and patience. Complex patterns are built from varied shapes, colors and sizes.

In the end, when done correctly, each mosaic tells a beautifully harmonious story. And, most importantly, can be an illustration of what we are all capable of.

Our friend Ayngelina at Bacon is Magic wrote an excellent post on why Jordan is the Canada of the Middle East. A very worthy read.

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  1. Beautiful! I miss Madaba!! I’m an archaeologist and I dug in that town for several months. Truly a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing your pics and reminding me of its beauty šŸ˜€

  2. That is great!!!!! So beautifull…….. I adore mosaics. Someday I will go to Spilimbergo (near Udine, Italy), to attend to mosaics school classes. They have Roman, Bizanc and modern lectures of making mosaics. But to you, Peter and Dalene I’m pledging to your heart that you have to visit this quite unknown place.
    See you in Ljubljana, quite soon šŸ™‚

  3. What a great post. I knew Jordan was a safe country in an somewhat unsafe region, but I had no idea they were so welcoming.

  4. Wow, I hope we get a chance to explore that area when we visit Jordan in September! I love mosaic art (it’s one of the few artistic things I can actually do myself). The complexity and intricacy of Middle Eastern mosaics have been a fascination for me ever since I first saw the Morocco section at Epcot over 20 years ago. Can’t wait to see it in Jordan for myself!

    1. Then you MUST make your way over there Bret! The floor mosaic is astounding, and especially because actually only about a quarter of it remains – it used to be HUGE!

  5. I think this mosaic carryout a sign of particular culture , like Muslim or Christ at the time 1960. It’s a historical truth. thanks for nice post.

  6. Love this! Great that artisans (or artists) are keeping the tradition alive in this day when cheap and fast are a priority.

  7. With so many people in the last year going through Jordan, it is neat to continue to see new sides to it. Hope we can add it to our list at some point.

  8. I have to echo Andrew’s sentiments above – well done on finding a new angle on Jordan to cover. Looks like fascinating stuff too šŸ˜€

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