A town with a long history, Madaba is best known as the location of the "Madaba Map", a 6th-century mosaic depiction of Jerusalem and many parts of the Holy Land.
In biblical times the city was part of the Moab Kingdom. After having been conquered by the Persians and after a devastating earthquake in 746 A.D., the city was left alone and remained mostly abandoned until 1890, when the reconstruction of a Greek Orthodox church revealed the famous mosaic.
Madaba with about 80,000 inhabitants is approximately 10% Christian (Catholics & Greek Orthodox). Much of the traveller and pilgrim infrastructure is run by the Franciscans. For the Bedouins living around the area, Madaba is an important market place.
The city is 25 km from Queen Alia International Airport and 35-40 km from the Dead Sea, potentially making it the ideal place to start or end your trip to Jordan.
- 1 Madaba Bus Station (in the east of town, next to the highway).
Madaba is about 1 hr from Amman. Buses from Amman's Tabarbour Station cost 1.20 JD (Oct 2018). Also, there are frequent minibuses from the 7th circle in Amman (1 JD)—they come from the center direction and take a turn south onto the airport road, directly after which you will find the bus stop.
Furthermore, minibuses from southern bus station (same one you can use for Petra), cost 0.5 JD. If you have lot of luggage it will be charged as one more passenger (Feb 2019). You can also get buses from the Mahatta bus station, and minibuses from the Muhajireen bus station near the Jordan Museum (0.65 JD) which enter Madaba from the west rather than from Airport Rd.
A taxi is a good option, especially if you're in a group. The cost depends on your bargaining abilities but it can go from 8-12 JD. Or you go by meter, which is about 12 JD. from northern Amman. Service taxis leave from Airport Rd near 7th Circle and cost 2 JD per person.
Because Madaba is close to Amman, Uber is available throughout town, including at Mount Nebo. The Uber price from the airport to Madaba city centre was around 6 JD as of Feb 2019.
The very centre of town has narrow, crowded streets, but just a few hundred metres away, you can find wide roads with plenty of parking.
Madaba is a very small city, so one can easily get around by on foot, although a taxi from downtown to the bus station is a good idea (1-2 JD). Taxis traveling within the city do not use the taxi meter but operate at a standard fare of 1 JD per trip. Make sure you agree on this price with the driver before hopping on. Uber is also available inside the city. Very good option for a ride to Mt. Nebo (around 5 JD from Madaba center) (Feb 2019).
- 1 Madaba Visitor Centre, Abu Bakr As-Siddiq. 07:00-00:00. Local information and free, clean toilets.
In the city
- 1 Basilica of St. George (Church of the Map). Not accessible during services. The famous map of the Middle East, plus a bunch of mosaic portraits. Buy ticket from the interpretive centre to the side, although why waste time on a lecture when you can just go and look at the map. 1 JD, free with Jordan Pass.
- 2 Madaba Archaeological Park. W-M 08:00-17:00. The highlight of Madaba, this is where to see many of the ancient mosaics discovered. 5 JD which includes entry to Archaeological Park, Madaba Museum and Apostles Church, free with Jordan Pass.
- 3 Madaba Museum. A few more rooms of mosaics, pottery and jewellery. Also includes an outside courtyard area with ancient statues.
- 4 Church of the Apostles (Not inside the Archaeological Park but further off.). Small church with nice, large mosaics on the floor. Not inside the Archaeological Park but further off.
- 5 Shrine of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist. Daily 09:00-19:00. Interesting 19th-century church which has underground rooms hosting a museum, and a church bell tower to climb to see a full view of Madaba. Regarding the beheading see also Machaerus below. 1 JD (Jordan Pass not valid).
- 6 Iron Age Fortification Wall on West Acropolis.
- [dead link] Madaba Art Gallery. 2 rooms filled with oil paintings and watercolours from Madaba artists.
Around the city
- 7 Dolmens at Al Fayha (Wadi Jadid is 10 km to the southwest of Madaba city at Al Fayha village.). This wadi is a field of dolmens (Burial Chambers or large stone memorials), where you could see more than 40 dolmens (12 of them standing in a very good condition) and the rest are damaged probably by earthquakes. Also there are several menhirs, cupholes and stone alignments as well. These dolmens dating to around 3000 BC, from the Early Bronze Age I. The locals there believed that dolmens are the houses of ghosts, they called it in Arabic Bit Al Ghula.
- 8 Mount Nebo (9 km northwest of Madaba, on the road leading to the Dead Sea). This historic site provides a panorama of the Holy Land, and to the north, a more limited one of the Jordan River Valley. The excavated remains of a church and a monument commemorating the biblical story of Moses and the bronze serpent stand atop the mountain. This is the spot where the Hebrew Bible says that Moses stood and witnessed the "promised land". Visit before sunset to take in the Franciscan Monastery and Church located here. Visitors can plan to spent less than half an hour at the site. 2 JD.
- 9 Umm ar-Rasas (from the highway south take the road east at Dhiban, 30 km southeast of Madaba). A UNESCO World Heritage Site which contains ruins from the Roman, Byzantine, and early Muslim civilizations. The majority of the site has not been excavated. The most important discovery on the site was the mosaic floor of the Church of St Stephen. It was made in 785 (discovered after 1986). The perfectly preserved mosaic floor is the largest one in Jordan. On the central panel hunting and fishing scenes are depicted while another panel illustrates the most important cities of the region (including Kastron Mefaa, Philadelphia, Madaba, Esbounta, Belemounta, Areopolis, Charac Moaba, Jerusalem, Nablus, Caesarea and Gaza).
- 10 Fortress of Machaerus (Mukawer) (30 km southwest of Madaba, bypassing Hammamat Ma'in Springs). This is the biblical Machaerus, the fortress of Herod the Great, where his son Antipas imprisoned and later executed John the Baptist, for whom a shrine was built in Madaba. 1 JD.
Not much except for visiting the places mentioned before and climbing the bell tower of Saint John Shrine.
- 1 Hammamat Ma'in, ☎ . A remarkable series of natural hot springs and waterfalls, some of which have been channeled into pools and baths. A spa resort is in the vicinity of the waterfalls.
Very good quality and cheap rugs. There are places where you can have them made on order if you have the time to wait for them. Excellent mosaics and great Dead Sea products.
There are many little falafel and kebab places, some better than others.
- 1 Darna Take Away (مطعم دارنا), K. Talal St.. A schwarma and pizza place that's above average and fairly priced. Tourists can expect to pay the price in the register receipt.
- 2 Haret Jdoudna, ☎ . 11:00-00:00. One of Madaba's finest eateries and is in the centre of the city along the main street. Within a restored Late Ottoman house, this restaurant features the best of Jordanian fare along with a cozy atmosphere that is welcoming at all times of year. Offers excellent Lebanese-style mezze, Arabic-style barbecue "Mashawi", and Italian pizzas. The restaurant also offers shishas. Sit on the rooftop patio at sunset for an enchanting experience watching the sun go down as you listen to the call to prayer from the numerous minarets nearby.
- 3 Mariam Hotel, Hay Bayt Al-Maqdis, ☎ . A very nice new rooftop restaurant is on the top floor of this hotel. They do open buffet dinner for 8 JD and the view to the city is very nice. Also they have a pool-side bar they serve sandwiches, wine and beer. You don’t have to be resident of the hotel to use the restaurant or the bar.
- Ayola's – A great coffee shop that welcomes tourists. They have very good sandwiches and excellent fruit shakes. It is the place to ask for a sheesha and people watch.
- Chili Ways – Newly opened. Offers decent hamburgers and fast-food at very reasonable prices.
- King Mesha restaurant – Offers lovely ambiance, friendly service and delicious food for very reasonable prices. It is very near the Madaba Archaeological Park and the museum.
Alcohol is widely available and there are a lot of liquor shops in town. If you are travelling to Wadi Rum and prefer wine during evening in the Bedouin camp, buy alcohol here as it is only available in the luxury hotels and camps in Wadi Rum, which most likely will be very far off - not many camps are close to each other.
- 1 Moab Land Hotel, King Talat Street (Opposite of St. George Church). Highly rated on hotel website. Dorm bed from 5 JD; double rooms 18 JD.
- 2 Queen Ayola Hotel, King Talat Street (70 meters south from St. George Church). Another decent option, but not as highly rated as Moab Land Hotel. Dorm bed from 5 JD.
- 3 Mariam Hotel, Aisha Um Al Mu'mineen Street (2 blocks to the right of Al Muhafada Circle), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: 08:00, check-out: 12:00. Nice and fair place but with signs of use and missing maintenance of the rooms and the building itself. The breakfast is straight but nothing special. A classic two-star hotel but with very friendly staff, 57 rooms and a large outdoor swimming pool. Does arrange airport pickups for a fixed price of 12 JD - call ahead or send an email. 20 JD.
- 4 Salome Hotel, Aisha Um Al Mu'mineen Street (2 blocks to the right of Al Muhafada Circle), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 30 JD.
- 5 Mosaic City Hotel, Al yarmouk St (1 block after Al Muhafada Circle), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. Clean and well-maintained. Twin 55 JD including breakfast.
- Saint John Hotel, King talal Street, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In a fringe area of the tourist street, mostly quiet but the owner struggles with certain members of his staff against the street. Excellent rooms, new aircon and TV, near museums, close to the market where local people buy things they need. Avoid the typical tourism hazards while getting a true experience of the street. 22 JD.
- 6 Black Iris Hotel, ☎ . Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. The Black Iris Hotel has clean non-smoking rooms. Offers tours to nearby areas including Mt. Nebo and the Dead Sea. 25-35 JD.
Most local buses going north or south should stop at the bus station in the east of town.
- Amman — if you stayed in Madaba over night coming from the airport.
- Dead Sea — besides Petra the most famous tourist attraction in Jordan.
- Kerak — site of a once-mighty Crusader castle.
- 11 Wadi Mujib — great nature reserve famous for its impressive canyons. Read more here. Limited access in winter.
- Dana Nature Reserve — stay in a local village within the Nature Reserve, and enjoy unforgettable hiking in an offshoot of the Great Rift.
- Petra — The most famous sight in Jordan. A touristic (=pricey) bus leaves every day from outside the Mariam Hotel for the trip to Wadi Musa (near Petra) via the scenic King's Highway, with stops at Wadi Mujib and Kerak.
- Wadi Rum — a stunning desert valley in southern Jordan, lies about an hour south of Petra.