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Open map of JordanFlag of JordanJordan / Cities and Towns /
Arabic: mādabā

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Madaba, Jordan
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Madaba's famous world map mosaic.

Madaba, Jordan
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Town in west-central Jordan with 80,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate), on a highland at an elevation of 760 metres. It is the capital of Madaba Governorate with an area of 940 km² and 145,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate).
Madaba's economy is based on local agriculture and services for the surrounding region. The main produce are wheat and barley.
Madaba lies on the older King's Highway, but only 10 km from the modern highway going north-south in Jordan. Amman is 30 km north.
Madaba is famous for its massive collection of Byzantine mosaics, preserved in churches and museums. Mosaics continued to be made even during Umayyad times, but styles continued to be the same as before.
There is especially one mosaic which is famous for both its beauty and its historical value. It dates back to the 6th century, and is a map of Palestine and the Nile Delta, more than 150 m² large. It is the oldest map of Palestine, including a detailed plan of Jerusalem and many places in the Negev Desert not mentioned in any other sources.
Madaba has a number of other beautiful mosaics too, shedding light on life during the early centuries of Christianity.

The town has been named Medaba, or variations of it, throughout 3,000 years of history.
2nd millennium BCE: Madaba is mentioned being destroyed by the Hebrews (according to the Bible under the leadership of Moses).
9th century: The Moabite king, Mesha, takes control over Medaba.
63: Rome conquers much of the lands of Palestine, including Madaba.
106 CE: Becomes part of the Roman province of Arabia.
451: Madaba is mentioned for having a bishop (with the Council of Chalcedon).
614: Persian invasion largely destroys Gerasa and the infrastructure of its economy.
636: After the Muslim Arabs beat the Byzantines in the region, Madaba passes over to their control. It would continue to be a Christian town for at least 150 years more.
13th or 14th century?: Madaba is abandoned.
1880 CE: Madaba is destroyed , but rebuilt and settled by Christian Catholic and Orthodox Arabs, driven out of Karak by Muslim tribes. Ottoman authorities allow them to build churches only on sites previously used for churches.
1884: During clearance work for a new church, Madaba's famous mosaics showing a map of the Holy Land is found.
1896: Archaeologists starts working on the map, which had been much damaged since its discovery.
1965: A two year restoration work is begun by German archaeologists on the map.

By Tore Kjeilen