Located 30 kilometers along the King’s Highway from Madaba is Umm ar-Rasas. This Unesco World Heritage Site is home to stunning mosaic floors which depict images from the Byzantine era. Umm Ar-Rasas is an ancient city that was referred to in both The Old and New Testaments.
Today the site is famous for its collection of mosaics and the glorious Church of St. Stephen. Although very little remains of the city today, visitors can still explore the ruins of 16 churches, two towers, and magnificent mosaics.
Inhabited since the Iron Age, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was mentioned in both The Old and New Testaments. The city was fortified by the Romans with a large rectangular wall that lined the entire city. Before it became a city the land was a campsite for the Roman military which then grew into a town during the 5th Century.
It wasn’t until 1986 that excavation of the site began and it is believed that the majority of Umm Ar-Rasas is still yet to be discovered. Today visitors can explore ruins from the Roman, Byzantine and Early Muslim periods.
Things to See at Umm Ar-Rasas
Church of St. Stephen
The most popular of the churches at Umm ar-Rasas is the Church of St. Stephen. It is believed to have been built around 785AD and contains a glorious mosaic floor. It was the discovery of this mosaic floor that identified the site as the ancient city of Kastron Mefaa. The large image depicts 15 cities in both Palestine and Jordan during the 8th Century and it is inscribed in Greek.
Along with the Church of St. Stephen the site also boasts a large number of well-excavated Byzantine churches. Two of the most notable churches are the Church of the Rivers and Church of the Palm Tree which are both named after their mosaic murals. These churches are built into the east wall and are surrounded by a courtyard. Located outside of the walls is the Church of the Lions which is again named for its mosaic of two lions.
How to Visit Umm Ar-Rasas
From the city of Madaba visitors can reach the archaeological site of Umm Ar-Rasas in around 40 minutes by car. Those traveling from Amman can get to Umm Ar-Rasas in just over one hour. It is also possible to join an organized tour from Amman or Madaba which can be booked through a number of hotels and tour offices.
Umm Ar-Rasas is easy to get to from Amman and Madaba. Visitors flock to this significant archaeological site to witness the large mosaic map in the Church of St. Stephen. Umm Ar-Rasas is an ideal day trip from the larger cities and a great way to learn more about Jordan’s Byzantine past.