Umm Ar-Rasas is a historical site of great archeological importance, located roughly 30 kilometers from the city of Madaba in Jordan.
It is believed to be the remains of a settlement mentioned in the Bible, in the book of Jeremiah.
From what is known, the Romans were the first to control the area and subsequently used it as a strategic garrison.
The area was later inhabited by both Christian and Muslim communities, and as a result, the ruins which have so far been excavated here represent the Roman era, the Byzantine era, as well as the early Muslim period.
While many amazing discoveries have been made at the site, a perfectly preserved mosaic floor found in the Church of St. Stephen has been the most significant to date.
The site’s close proximity to Madaba, along with its UNESCO World Heritage Site status have resulted in Umm Ar-Rasas becoming one of the more popular Jordan tourist attractions in the area.
Umm Ar-Rasas – A Brief History
In early times, the region beyond the Dead Sea’s western banks was home to several densely populated settlements, one of which was a settlement called Mephaat.
In the Bible’s book of Jeremaih, Mephaat was condemned to destruction. Archeologists who have been involved with excavations at Umm Ar-Rasas believe that this is the settlement referred to as Mephaat in the Bible.
Archeologists also uncovered an inscription on the ruins of a Byzantine church which named the area Castron Mephaa, thereby adding credence to the theory that Umm Ar-Rasas and Mephaat are one in the same place.
Umm Ar-Rasas and its Famous Mosaic
Several amazing discoveries have been made at Umm Ar-Rasas, but the most important to date was a perfectly intact and perfectly preserved floor mosaic in the Church of St. Stephen.
Only discovered in 1986, this strikingly beautiful mosaic dates back to 785 C.E. One section of the mosaic features a variety of hunting and fishing scenes, while another is essentially an illustration of the region’s most important cities.
The mosaic was created by six craftsmen, and it is the biggest such mosaic ever discovered in the country. The ruins of four other churches have also been discovered in the area, and they too revealed traces of mosaics.
The Early Muslim Period
By 634 C.E. Muslim armies had started penetrating the area, and soon they were being helped by many local tribesmen who had grown to resent Byzantine control. Rather than becoming embroiled in bloody battles, many holy cities chose to surrender to the Muslim armies.
Consequently, the Muslim conquest resulted in very little destruction and for the most part, Christians were able to continue going about their lives as usual.
Later, during the Abbasid period, the Muslim rulers started to pass and enforce numerous laws which restricted things such as Christian symbols and etc.
Despite the restrictions, many Christians continued to go on pilgrimages to a number of holy sites. However, this soon stopped due to the ever-increasing risk of being imprisoned along the way.
Finally, virtually all of the churches and monasteries were abandoned, including the Church of St. Stephen which contains the mosaic mentioned above.
Visiting Umm Ar-Rasas
Tours that do include a stop at Madaba, may not necessarily include a visit to nearby Um Ar-Rasas, so if you are contemplating booking one of our tours and you would like to visit Umm Ar-Rasas, please check to see if it is listed in your preferred tour itinerary.
If it is not included, but you would like to be, simply let us know and we will be happy to customize your chosen itinerary accordingly. With us, all listed tours are fully customizable and can be tailored to meet your own unique requirements.
Why not join us for a visit to the amazing Umm Ar-Rasas archeological site near Madaba, and then decide for yourself if this is indeed Mephaat, the city that was condemned to destruction.