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Madaba: City of Mosaics and a Story about a Rug

Madaba: City of Mosaics and a Story about a Rug

As you may have noticed from some of my other blog articles, Jordan has plenty of religious and historical places to uncover.  Just to mention some: there is Mount Nebo, the peak where Moses finally found the Promise Land, the Baptism Side, where Jesus was baptized by John, but also many other places with stories worth to tell.

Just a 30 kilometres from Amman there is Madaba, also known as the ‘City of Mosaics’ – another historical place. The city’s streets emit the Arab charm and diversity and in the busy downtown markets there is nothing you can’t buy.  One shop besides another often arranged in selling-themes. For example there are butchers along one street, side by side, or dozens of clothes shops in one alley – and oftentimes they all have similar items to sell. Looks really great, but I was wondering how their business is working with all those competitors?

At the beautiful Orthodox Church of St. George in Madaba you will find a unique piece of art and a Mosaic map of the Holy Land, dated from 6th Century. The map, built from over two million pieces of singly coloured stones, shows the holy sites around Jordan, the Nile Delta and Jerusalem. Truly a gem.

Besides the well preserved map, the ancient city is a land of milk and honey for people into handmade furniture and accessories. I immediately fell in love with a side table, which was built from colourful mosaic stones shaping a palm tree.  I still think one day I will go back and just buy it – hopefully it’s still there. Anyways, we certainly didn’t leave Madaba without buying something…

After a small lunch in an authentic and nicely decorated restaurant – I unfortunately forgot its name, but it was right in front of the St. George church – we went to the selling area of handmade rugs. One of the main reasons for our visit.

While strolling thru the streets and discovering shop after shop one of its owners identified us as potential clients and invited us inside. We were interested to buy a rug anyways and his shop looked most beautiful, which… we agreed on nearly at every shop we passed. Inside the store we were pretty amazed by the variety.  Each rug a story, he demonstrated us one after the other, removing the heavy items from large closets and carefully showcasing his ware. Some of his quality checks were slightly less careful, in fact, he demonstrated different quality and hair processing techniques using fire and water, explaining why there are quite remarkable price differences. After almost an hour discussing and testing a wide range of carpets, with a wide range of techniques, he invited us to sit down for a cup of fresh mint tea. As we weren’t in a hurry and enjoyed the atmosphere we gladly accepted the break from critical investigation. No longer distracted by all the beautiful things around his shop I noticed that the he was a bit out of breath. So we took chance for just sitting and sipping on the tea, listening and learning about the different personal opinions and religious streams especially present in Madaba.

Back to business, we were still determined to buy a rug. After all these lovely gestures and time invested it had to be one from this shop – in any case we were still looking for a neat price too. Refusing any help from us going through his rugs (and stories) we finally decided for an old one made by a Bedouin women in Wadi Rum… we loved the story behind and certainly the colours… and its perfect fit in our living room. Don’t you think?…

Stefan’s shoulders loaded with that heavy piece we left Madaba. With an old handmade rug and a nice story in addition – a Madaba two for one offer.

Cheers with sunbeams.

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