Located at 33 kilometres from Jordan capital city, Madaba (180,000 inhabitants) is also referred to as the city of mosaics. Known for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics, it is where the largest number of mosaics has been discovered in their original location in the world, including the oldest surviving depiction of the Holy Land. The protection, restoration and maintenance of these mosaics have become important to both the citizens and the local authorities, leading to the revival of mosaic handicraft and a large mobilization of local craftsmen. Mosaic craft is one of the main local economic resources and has created 800 employment opportunities and 150 workshops.
The archaeological excavation in Madaba contributed to the discovery of hundreds of mosaics. As a result, the city established the Madaba Institute for Mosaic Art and Restoration; the only institute in the Middle East specialised in teaching mosaic conservation and production techniques. Through the support of the Municipality, mosaics have become an important economic enabler and the basis for agreements and twinning projects with cities around the world, through the organisation of several events and exhibitions. The Mosaic Festival for example, launched in 2014 in partnership with Middle East University, aims to promote the mosaic industry and tessellation work of local craftsmen. In 2016 Madaba was bestowed the title of Mosaic City by the World Crafts Council.
As part of a partnership between the Municipality of Madaba, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, the Mosaic Workshops Instructions have been established to raise awareness and train craftsmen and stakeholders in responsible and sustainable approaches of the mosaic industry. The workshops focus notably at preventing illegal exportation of mosaic antiquities by labelling them as modern artworks, as well as at strengthening artisans’ rights and working conditions through safe work environment, health insurance and social security systems.
As a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, Madaba envisages:
- establishing a committee for preserving mosaics and handicrafts in Madaba and strengthening craftsmen rights and working environments;
- launching the Madaba Creative Festival for Handicrafts and Mosaics, inviting other Creative Cities of Crafts and Folk Art to share best practices and experiences in production techniques and design;
- creating a comprehensive database for Madaba ancient mosaic artworks, to facilitate their management, monitoring, safeguarding and transfer of them to the next generation;
- renovating the AlQesar Wheat Milling heritage building to become a museum that will showcase the story of wheat milling in Jordanian heritage and Madaba’s folk art; and
- launching a local radio station for Madaba Municipality called ‘Hawa Madaba’, to raise awareness on cultural heritage and promote mosaic artworks