Wednesday, 08 January 2014, 04:39:12 EET
Madaba: Haven of Jordanian Handicrafts
Artisanship still thrives in this small, historic city; hub of religion and trade. Today, Madaba offers a range of beautifully handcrafted items inspired by the history and natural environment of Madaba and its surroundings.
Shops along the Artisan Street in Madaba offer unique, authentic handicrafts. Madaba is most famous for mosaics and colorful, hand-woven carpets, but there is much more to see than that. Take the time to walk along the street and you will see local craftspeople and artists in the process of production. Madaba is one of the only places in the world where you can witness the making of mosaics and purchase products handmade in Jordan.
The ancient art of mosaic-making consists of pressing stone fragments (known as tesserae) into wet plaster to create detailed and ornate works of art used to decorate churches, monasteries and public gathering places. These mosaics tell stories and depict maps, writings and murals. Madaba’s mosaics are an instrumental part of recorded history and have provided historians with the names and dates of important figures and events in Christianity and regional history. Today mosaic artists in Madaba produce an array of souvenirs and handicrafts used for a variety of purposes.
Madaba Institute for Mosaics Art and Restoration (MIMAR)
MIMAR aims to preserve and restore the ancient mosaics found in so many places in Jordan, especially those on the Madaba plateau. Students receive training in techniques of conservation and restoration for the safeguarding and preservation of the magnificent Byzantine mosaics of Jordan. Replicas of ancient mosaics are also produced at the institute. Visits to MIMAR are welcome with advance notice. The institute can be found at the Archaeological Park in Madaba in the Hussein bin Ali Street. Contact MIMAR by telephone: +96253240723 or +96253248632
Sheep’s wool, and goat and camel hair are used by Bedouin tribes and villagers all over Jordan to produce rugs, bags, and other beautiful items. Traditionally the entire process is done by hand; from the washing, carding, spinning and dying of the yarn to the finished product. The Bedouin style of weaving is unusual in that it produces "warped face rugs" unlike the traditional "weft" rugs. Warped face rugs are preferable for their high-density and signature texture. Most weavers in Jordan purchase their raw materials from Madaba. The Bani Hamida rugs, produced by the locals of the Bani Hamida Mountain 35km away from Madaba city, are most famous.
In the villages south of Madaba city, in the mountains overlooking the Dead Sea, live the formerly nomadic Bedouin tribe of Bani Hamida. Today “Bani Hamida” is synonymous with the weaving project started by twelve women of the tribe in 1985. Bani Hamida products are now featured in outlets all over the country and beyond. However modern the approach to marketing, the rugs are still woven on the traditional ground looms, constructed of stones, sticks and other available objects, although attempts are being made to introduce the newer upright looms, which are less tiring to use. The project is centered in the village of Mukawir (known as the site of Herod's fortress and of the execution of John the Baptist), where you can visit the weaving rooms and admire the work. The women of Bani Hamida also produce decorative candles.
Probably the most ancient craft in Jordan is the creation of earthenware products out of silsal (Arabic for clay). Pottery was first invented in the Levant in the 6th millennium BC. The craft has changed slightly since then, with coarsely-fired vases, pots and plates now created on a rotating wheel. Ceramics is an active craft in Madaba, with many local artists producing beautiful items.
Handmade silver jewelry is traditionally worn by Bedouin women. This craft has been revived in Madaba with universal appeal. Replicas of traditional designs and custom-made jewelry are popular.
Embroidery is one of the most central and important traditional crafts of Jordanian women. In recent years embroidery has been incorporated into high fashion, adorning elegant designer gowns and jackets frequently modeled on the catwalks of Jordan's fashion shows. The art of embroidery has also been carried over into the making of cushions, gracing the furniture of many Jordanian homes. Simple cross-stitch and bright colors are the basis for a plethora of intricate designs and recurring motifs including trees, flowers, feathers, waves and geometric patterns.
Sand art is a popular souvenir handicraft item. Local sand is dyed and skillfully poured into glass bottles of all shapes and sizes to create illustrations of local landscapes, wildlife, or words and sayings. You may even have your name etched in sand for a lasting reminder of your visit to Madaba.
Woven crafts, including baskets, trays, and other attractive and intriguing items, are included in the variety of local handicrafts available.
Delicately painted and carved ostrich eggs are another unique local craft. The eggs are laid on the Azraq and Shawmari Wildlife Reserves run by the RSCN, and they are then decorated by local craftspeople at the workshop cooperative in Umm al Rasas. Designs are colorful and varied, depicting scenes of Jordanian folklore and tradition.
Look out for imported and machine-produced mosaics of low-quality that might fall apart with travel.
Mosaics make a wonderful addition to any home as a unique decoration on the table, wall-hangings, furniture, on doors, toilets, or outdoor areas.
You can order custom-made items for furniture, floor, wall or ceiling décor, and your purchases can be safely shipped anywhere around the world.
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