Madaba, Jordan, is known as “The City of Mosaics” to locals and travelers. Incredible Byzantine mosaics have been found underneath almost every home in the desert town. We’ve written about this spot along the famed Kings Highway before – it’s a premier destination for any mosaic art lover. Now – it’s about to increase its fame – thanks to the Guinness Book of World Records.
This time, it’s a new piece of mosaic wall art that’s drawing visitors to Madaba. Thanks to an inspired member of the local tourist council, the town is also home to the world’s largest mosaic panel. How large? Well, try to imagine this: The piece measures 19 feet high by 98 feet long – and contains over three million tiles.
If you’re curious about the logistics of how much work went into the giant piece of mosaic wall art, there’s quite a history. Samer al-Twal, who spearheaded the project, kicked off the work 8 years ago – in 2013. It was a bumpy start, as they ran into funding difficulties only two months in. Thanks to generous supporters such as Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, they were able to continue the work on the mammoth mosaic wall panel.
Choosing a theme that deserved a big canvas wasn’t hard. The 5000-year old, 174-mile long Kings Highway deserved a map of its own. It’s the perfect complement to the town’s most famous mosaic art: the Madaba Map.
The Madaba Map was designed around 570 AD to decorate the floor of a Byzantine church in the city. It shows the entire region from Jordan and Palestine in the north, to Egypt in the south. Here’s just a small portion of the highly detailed map.
The Kings Highway portrait depicts the ancient trade route in a similar style. It’s quite a stretch of land to document! The Highway connected Africa with Mesopotamia – running from Egypt across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba, then to Damascus and the Euphrates River.
Ambitious – yes, but look where they are now! With inclusion in the Guinness Book of World records, this mosaic will undoubtedly bring even more visitors to this mosaic art destination. For previous visitors who visited the work-in-progress at the town’s visitor center, there are some special surprises in store.
To build community and share the project with all its supporters, all visitors were invited to add their name to a tile – to be later included in the completed mural. You’ll find tourists searching for their small contribution to this record-setting piece of mosaic art.
The installation is worth an extended view, due to its size and detail. Per al-Twal, the organizer, “This route is mentioned in the Torah and on the obelisk of King Misha. We drew the most important tourist attractions of Jordan on this mosaic structure. One of the most important of these is the ancient route that was rebuilt during the reign of Roman Emperor Trajan.”
Madaba is one mosaic art travel destination to add to your bucket list. With a dizzying array of fine Byzantine mosaic art on display, at locations like the Church of the Apostles, the Virgin Mary Church, and Hippolytus Hall – as well as a renowned mosaic art school, it’s a must-see. One can view hundreds of ancient mosaics in one trip. Highly recommended: the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration at the Madaba Archeological Part, as well as the Byzantine church of St. George, where one can see the original Madaba Mosaic is. The location is also ideal as a home base for visiting other Dead Sea historical sites.
Have you been lucky enough to view any of the Madaba mosaic art in person? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear about your favorites!
Check out our ancient mythology collection for more historical mosaic designs !