While today was a mostly driving day, we made some interesting stops along the way. We drove hair pin turns to the top of Mt. Nebo, the spot where Moses supposedly viewed the Promised Land before he died nearby at the age of 120. The site certainly had a great view as promised, but since we also visited Moses’ death site in Palestine, who knows? Our guide said that there are a number of sites where Moses died, and that may have been done on purpose to keep grave robbers from making off with him. The site has been purchased and administered by the Franciscans who have done a wonderful job of developing it and keeping it clean and tourist friendly. The centerpiece was the Moses Memorial Church. There have been many churches on this site since Helena, mother of Constantine, came through the area on a quest to locate all the significant spots in the life of Christ. We saw the results of her pilgrimage in Palestine, too. Today the church houses a magnificent collection of mosaics found in the previous churches. Most of them are geometric designs in the Moslem tradition, but one portrayed animals both real and imagined, as well as people hunting and training those animals.
It turned out that mosaics were a major theme today. In Madaba the St. George church had an enormous mosaic map that was made to guide Holy Land travelers. It extended all they way from here to Egypt, the AAA map of the day. Since strict Islamists believe that it is forbidden to render images of living things, most of the animals and people in the map had been blurred by taking out the tiles portraying them and mixing them up.
We stopped at a mosaic workshop, established to keep this traditional Jordanian skill going. Most of the people who work there are unemployed and this skill can give them a comfortable life. We were sorely tempted by the mosaic tables. Even though they would ship for free, they were still mighty pricy. We understood why. It took months for the artisans to get all those tiles placed.
For lunch we split up into small groups to eat with locals. The home where we ate was well kept, but small and simple. The man of the family has lost his job as an accountant, replaced by Syrian refugees who were willing to work for half his wage. They could do so, because they also are subsidized by Saudi and UN funds. His wife does not work and there is no unemployment aid like we have. We wondered what they are living on, but didn’t feel comfortable enough to ask. Our hosts were Christian and were looking forward to decorating a tree and celebrating much as we do. One-third of the people in Madaba are Christian. Our family said that no one is means to them, but all their friends are Christian, too.