Day 18: Madaba – Amman Airport: Leaving the Middle East

Tuesday June 7, 2011, 30 km (19 miles) – Total so far: 1,529 km (950 miles)

I had my first lie in in three weeks and got up late for breakfast where I met a few more foreigners. Two of which were a father and his 15 year old son who had taken the overland route using a jeep/public transport from Kenya northwards through Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt to Jordan visiting both Djibouti and Somaliland along the way! Hearing about great trips like this put my minor one in perspective. After breakfast I decided to visit the mosaic map, the reason so many tourists are drawn to Madaba. Madaba’s mosaic map is the oldest map of the holy land dating back to the 6th century. Madaba was mostly destroyed by an earthquake in the 8th century and the remains of the mosaic were only rediscovered in 1884. The mosaic is now on display on the floor of St.George’s church in the centre of Madaba.

Mosaic Map
Jerusalem on the Map
A defaced lion on the Mosaic Map, apparently this was done several hundred years ago under a religious order not allowing depictions of animals. The gazelle was left untouched though for some reason.
Painting in St.George’s Church
Candles in St.George’s Church

I spent the rest of the day wandering the streets and markets of Madaba, soaking up the lively Middle Eastern atmosphere for the last time. I tried some street photography here for the first time since Cairo. I stood out a mile as the only foreigner in most of the other towns/villages I visited so I usually didn’t take my camera out which would draw even more attention.

Madaba Street

On the way back to the hotel to pick up my bike I somehow ran into Dan & Emily again, two backpackers I had met on the ferry from Egypt. This was the 4th time we had met, it seemed they couldn’t get away from me! After another long chat catching up we went our separate ways. I picked up my bike and began the short cycle to Amman airport in the fading sunlight. 30km later through rolling hills and endless suburbs I rolled into Amman airport.

Dan & Emily who I kept bumping into
Madaba Flags
Madaba Mosque
Evening cycle to Amman Airport

It felt wrong to be going home so early, I was loving my time here. I found it to be a truly fascinating part of the world, somewhere so different from home and the other western countries I have visited. I now fully realise how wrong the general perception of this part of the world is. Admittedly before I left for this cycle tour I was slightly nervous. The nerves being fuelled by sensationalist articles about Egypt spinning out of control,waves of crime gripping the nation and talk of Egypt being on the edge of a huge outbreak of violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims. But on the ground this couldn’t be further from the truth. The whole region felt very safe and the vast majority of people I met were decent people who would go well out of their way to help me. To be honest I actually felt safer in the crowded night-time streets in cities/towns here than the deserted night-time streets of Limerick and Dublin back home. Although I still had to keep my wits about me in places, my fear soon evaporated and I quickly grew to love the region. I was now leaving with a much better understanding of the Middle East, one that shattered preconceptions and I truly would love to visit the region again in the future.

Final route

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