The fertility of Madaba's plains   have made it a strategic location for 3500 years. Fought over by many people   during different times, it later became a Nabataean town. During the   Byzantine era, the city became a bishopric and the mosaics, for which it   became famous, were laid. Today, the city is still famous for mosaics, both   historical and for its mosaic school, the only one of its kind in the Middle   East.


Many biblical civilizations coveted   the rich plains surrounding Madaba. In 106 AD, the Romans became the   governors, and Madaba gained a colonnaded street and the usual impressive   public buildings of a provincial town. The town failed, however, after the   earthquake of 747 AD, and lay abandoned for about 1100 years.


In the 1880s, local fighting in   Karak drove 2000 Christians to settle in Madaba. As they began to dig   foundations for their houses, they began to uncover mosaics. From then on,   Madaba has been a heaven for archeologists and a nightmare for construction   workers.


In or around 562 AD, many exquisite   mosaic floors were laid in Madaba, including the Chapel of St. Theodore, now   part of the Madaba Cathedral. In the Church of the Apostles, a mosaicist   named Salamanios completed a masterwork. The oldest and most famous floor,   the Mosaic Map, was discovered in 1884 in the Greek Orthodox Church of St.   George. It was originally laid in 560 AD. Centering on Jerusalem, the map   portrays the region with accuracy and humor. Archeologists have been able to   positively identify most of the 150 named sites due to the accurate   portrayals of natural features such as the River Jordan or the Dead Sea, as   well as the labels. Only one-third of the map has survived.


The Archaeological Park is located   on the foundations of the Church of the Virgin Mary, and its floor is part of   the collection. A mosaic found at Herod's castle in Mukawir is said to be the   oldest mosaic found in Jordan, dating from the 1st century BC. The charming   Hall of Seasons was found under a Madaba house. Across the preserved Roman   road, complete with wheel ruts, are the foundations of the Church of the   Prophet Elias, constructed in 608 AD.


Other tourist opportunities abound.   The Burnt Palace is a 6th century luxury palace destroyed about 749 AD by   fire and earth tremors, but which still boasts mosaic floors, mostly   depicting animals and hunts. The Madaba Museum contains jewelry and ethnic   costumes, as well as more mosaics. The unique Madaba Mosaic School seeks to   preserve the craft and to teach conservation techniques.


A number of historical sites   surround Madaba. Mt. Nebo is owned by the Franciscan fathers and has been   part of the traditional Christian pilgrimage path for centuries. The traditional   path included Jerusalem, Mt. Nebo, and a bath at Hammamat Ma'in, where Herod   is said to have bathed. The new hotel and spa here makes this pilgrimage end   in comfort and luxury.


Madaba is an unusual place. Once a   Roman town, it is hard to find evidence of that now, but the Byzantine   influence defines the tourism aspect of the area. The mosaics that were laid   here long ago, and the ones being created now, set Madaba apart.