Saturday, 5 February 2011

The "Jordanian approaches circuit" - Day 3

The "Jordanian approaches circuit" - The morning of day 3

The King's highway -  Mount Nebo - Madaba
The 24th of January 2011

We took to the "Kings's highway" (translation of  an old Hebrew term simply meaning main road), running through some of the  loveliest Jordan countryside (we were told) and considered  the most import  route of the North-South trade, fairly early on our way to Petra via Madaba, leaving Amman behind.

Mount Nebo, considered one of the  holiest sites in Jordan, has  a unique resonance for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. The view from the vantage point where Moses  after having led the Israelites for forty years finally saw the Promised Land is  absolutely awe-inspiring, once we can enjoy a view on the Jordan valley, the Dead Sea; Jerico and Jerusalem. At its cliff-edge platform there is a stylized cross in the form of a serpent, having been inspired in Jesus's words in John 3 - " As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the  Son of the Man be lifted".

We were unfortunately deprived of visiting the 4th century church and Monastery complex  with its sumptuous mosaic floor,  as it was undergoing restoration works, but a tent raised in the Eastern Centre made it possible for us to see several mosaics also found in Mount Nebo, depicting hunting scenes.

Our next stop was Madaba, a city of ancient origins, whose main attraction is the Greek-Orthodox church of Saint George, dating to the times of Justinian, where the remains of a Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land (which must have been laid in the second half of the 6th century) is to be seen and whose purpose might have been to better direct pilgrims to sites of biblical significance.

Different views of the inside of the Greek-Orthodox church of Saint George

Church Icons (Left). Partial view of the Byzantine mosaic map (Right).

This little church impacted on me and to simply imagine that this east oriented map once comprised over two million stones and measured 15,6 metres long by 6 metres wide was astounding.

Equally astounding were the ostrich eggs decorated with very tiny handmade mosaics depicting iconic scenes, we were given the chance of seeing amongst other artifacts at a local handicraft factory. The images of these amazingly precious "pieces of art" haunted me all the way to Petra. I don't know why I hesitated and ended up not bying one of those, irrespective of being fairly expensive.  I don't think I'll have another opportunity to ever come across such a beautiful and unique type of mosaic Art.

View of  a commercial street in Madaba

We shall be continuing South ... but I have kept inspiring images of the places we have visited so far.

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