Visit the ruins of the Burnt Palace and spend half an hour browsing the old Roman colonnaded road that once ran east to west in the center of Madaba. This road now forms the heart of the Madaba Archaeological Park, a small open-air museum that contains the palace, ancient churches and an underground hall. These treasures were only discovered relatively recently, having been hidden under private residences for centuries.
Known simply as the Burnt Palace today, the once-imposing building’s official name and fate is unknown, having either been destroyed by an earthquake or partly burned down. All that is known is that the opulent mansion dates back to Byzantine times at the turn of the 7th century. Large iron door-knockers shaped as lion heads were found on the site, a clue that this building was once owned by a wealthy family or even a ruler.
The Burnt Palace may be a mere shadow of its former glory, but the walled ruin is well worth a visit for its splendid mosaics alone. Admire the vidid depictions of a galloping horse, a fierce lion attacking a bull, a shepherd with his dog, an ewe with her lamb and an impaled bear. Because the floor has remained hidden for so long, the mosaics have escaped a period in Jordan’s far past when images of living beings were forbidden and either altered or destroyed.
There are interpretive panels next to each mosaic, but the information provided is limited. While there is no official guide on site, you may ask the person who checks your entry ticket to give you a tour for a small fee.
The complex in Hussein bin Ali Street, is covered by the Jordan Pass, which gives you access to government-run historic attractions and sites all across the country. If you haven’t purchased this pass, you can pay for the small entry fee in cash.
Afterwards, visit the mosaic workshops of Artisan Street, where the ancient technique is passed on to be mastered and enjoyed by generations to come. These workshops are part of a row of cafés and tourist shops and are best reached on foot or by taxi.