Madaba is located about 33 kilometers south of Amman, the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and has an area of approximately 94 km2 and a population of 180,000 people according to the latest statistics. The climate is predominantly Mediterranean.
The name Madaba, meaning “the good place” or “calm water” in Aramaic and Syriac, and “the food or feast” in Arabic, appears in many historical and religious sources. The earliest settlement in the city dates back to the Early Bronze Age, according to the results of archaeological excavations conducted at Tell Madaba.
Madaba is famous for its Roman and Byzantine mosaics, often being referred to as the “City of Mosaics.” In addition to the many in situ pavements, the city is also houses several mosaics from nearby sites, including one of the oldest pieces ever found in Jordan that dates to the 1st century BC.
It is also important to mention that region around the city of Madaba includes two Christian pilgrimage sites, Mount Nebo and Machaerus, and one UNESCO World Heritage site, Umm al-Rasas.
Through careful study and analysis of the mosaics of the Madaba region, it became clear that the city had its own mosaic school during the Byzantine and Early Islamic periods. There are several designs and stylistic techniques that are characteristic of the Madaba mosaics and indicate that, during this period, a specific group of artists had formed a workshop or school in the city. Several of the members of this school, including Salaman, Staurachios, and Elias, are mentioned in the inscriptions contained in the mosaic floors.
The modern mosaicists of Madaba have kept this tradition alive by producing mosaics using ancient production techniques, such as manually cutting the stone cubes (tesserae) that are used in these works of art. They are also renowned for their manufacture of a specific type of mosaic that is made up of incredibly small tesserae that are nearly invisible to the naked eye at a certain distance.
Currently, there are more than 150 workshops for the production of mosaics in the Madaba region. These workshops are under the direct supervision of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities in order to preserve the traditions of mosaic production and to ensure that the cultural identity of this handicraft remains a part of Madaba’s cultural heritage. The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities has also issued specific instructions for this craft regarding the terms for licensed workshops and the number of craftsmen. The Ministry has stipulated that those who want to work in mosaic production must have graduated from the Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration (formerly the Madaba Mosaic School) in order to uphold the methods and techniques of this traditional craft.