Jordan | Umm ar-Rasas


Um-ar-Rasas-4.jpgUm-ar-Rasas-4.jpg

jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage siteA few weeks ago, our friends and colleagues, Lina and Yarub, took us to visit some lesser-known historical tourism sites in Jordan: Umm ar-Rasas and Mukawir. I’ll write about Mukawir in another post. For now, I’ll just focus on the wonder that is Umm ar-Rasas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage site, church of st stephen, mosaicsChurch of St. Stephen, the largest mosaic floor in Jordan.Umm ar-Rasas is a huge, mostly unexcavated archaeological site of Roman ruins outside of Madaba. I thought the mosaics in Madaba were impressive, but they’re nothing compared to the scale and quantity of what’s in Umm ar-Rasas.jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage site, church of st stephen, mosaicsA different part of the Church of St. Stephen.Umm ar-Rasas was established as a Roman military camp and grew into a large town with 16 churches. Many of the churches, including the Church of St. Stephen pictured above, today — centuries later — have in-tact mosaic floors. With the exception of the Church of St. Stephen, none of the other churches or sites are excavated or preserved in any way.jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage siteCenturies of earthquakes, surrounding development and exposure to the elements have reduced much of the site to rubble, but many of the structures remain — especially ones supported by arches. The mosaic floors of what remain of some of the other churches are covered in protective tarp. You can lift the tarp and brush away the sand to reveal bold colors and beautiful designs, hundreds of years later.jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage site, church of the lionsMosaic floor at the Church of the Lions.One cool discovery we made is that we own custom-made mosaic artwork inspired by the mosaic floor in the Church of St. Stephen. There is a beautiful mosaic tryptic hanging in the Mission Director’s office at work. I took measurements and a photo and contacted a couple mosaic artists to see if they could make something similar — not the exact same design but something that says “Jordan.”jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage site, church of st stephen, mosaicsAfter some negotiations and about a month of tedious craftsmanship, our mosaics were delivered — literally days before we visited Umm ar-Rasas. Lo and behold, the mosaic floor in the Church of St. Stephen is bordered by images of several Byzantine-era towns in the region. Our mosaics are based on three of those towns (minus the Greek script).jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage site, church of st stephen, mosaicsPretty cool, right? It would have been cooler had I known about Umm ar-Rasas in advance and actually selected the mosaic designs myself based on the Church of St. Stephen, but I’m not that good.jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage site, church of st stephen, mosaicsThe mosaic artist sent a few photos to me and said they were based on a church near Madaba. He didn’t mention they were from the largest mosaic floor in Jordan and a UNESCO World Heritage Site!jordan, madaba, umm ar-rasas, unesco world heritage siteTower at Umm ar-Rasas.Kail and I really enjoyed our visit to Umm ar-Rasas. We were the only tourists there — possibly due to the summer heat — but I get the impression it is not among the well-traveled tourism sites of Jordan, like the Citadel, Madaba, Jerash or, of course, Petra. It’s definitely on our list of places to take visitors!What are your favorite off-the-beaten path places to visit?

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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