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.
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.”
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.