Just 30 minutes from Amman, along the 5,000-year-old Kings´ Highway, is one of the most memorable places in the Holy Land: Madaba, the “City of Mosaics." Best known for its spectacular Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, Madaba is home to the famous 6th century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of vividly colored local stone, it depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. The Madaba Mosaic Map covers the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, which was built in 1896 AD, over the remains of a much earlier 6th century Byzantine church.
Other mosaic masterpieces depict a rampant profusion of flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, as well as scenes from mythology and the everyday pursuits of hunting, fishing and farming. Literally, hundreds of other mosaics from the 5th through the 7th centuries are scattered throughout Madaba's churches and homes.
To the east of Madaba is Umm Ar-Rasas, an ancient site mentioned in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible. The rectangular walled city is mostly in ruins but has several buildings, as well as four churches and some beautiful stone arches. The main attraction is outside the city walls within the Church of St. Stephen, which contains a very large, perfectly preserved mosaic floor laid down in 718 AD. It portrays fifteen major cities of the Holy Land from both east and west of the River Jordan.
Another highlight among Jordan’s historical sites is the ancient city of Jerash. The city has been continuously occupied for more than 6,500 years, but its golden age came under Roman rule, when it was known as Gerasa. Conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, it came under Roman rule and was one of the ten great Roman cities of the Decapolis League. After being hidden for centuries in sand, the site is now generally acknowledged as the best-preserved Roman provincial town in the world. Jerash reveals a fine example of the grand, formal provincial Roman urbanism that is found throughout the Middle East, comprising paved and colonnaded streets, soaring hilltop temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares and plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates. Beneath its external Graeco-Roman veneer, Jerash also preserves a subtle blend of east and west. Its architecture, religion and languages reflect a process by which two powerful cultures meshed and coexisted - The Graeco-Roman world of the Mediterranean basin and the ancient traditions of the Arab Orient.