Friday, September 26, 2008

The Mosaic Map of Madaba

The debate about protecting ancient sites while making them accessible to tourists is ongoing. One such example in Jordan is St. George’s Church in Madaba which houses the world famous seventh century mosaic map of the Middle East. This church is unique in another way as well because it is the only Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba. Not only do tourists visit it, but it is used for weekly services and various celebrations throughout the year. For those readers who haven’t visited it, I would say that the map covers about one tenth of the church floor. The moveable barrier that surrounds it is easy to get around if a tour guide or tourist wants to. During church services, weddings, and funerals, the map is inadequately protected by carpets. According to the Jordan Times’ article two days ago, 163,027 tourists visited this church during the first seven months of 2008! The article mentioned the good news that about $100,000 will be earmarked to promote and preserve several of the Byzantine sites in Madaba. Maybe enough concern will be generated to encourage the Greek Orthodox community to build a new church in Madaba for their congregation thus relieving some of the pressure on St. George’s. I do hope that special attention is given to protecting the Mosaic Map of Madaba. If not, Jordan and the world may lose an important heritage site.

ASH

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