Mosaics and Dirty Old Men

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
Trip End Oct 08, 2008

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Saturday, July 12, 2008

Madaba is an easy day trip from Amman, but it's also supposed to be a nice town to stay in instead of Amman.  The city has found its place in history because of its massive collection of mosaics. 

Our first stop in the city was at the Archaeological Park.  Contrary to the sound of its name, it is not large.  And it's pretty much solely a collection of mosaics from different places and periods.  For good measure they've got the old Roman cardo of the city running through the middle of the park.  I love mosaics and have formulated a plan to make myself a Roman bathroom, so you may eventually see a lovely mosaic floor in my house...whenever I get one of those.  But really, you should look at the photos, because my descriptions will not be good. 

After the museum we traipsed to the main event - a mosaic map that once contained two million tiles but is now one third its original size.  The map described the Middle East from Lebanon to Sinai - all the important political and Biblical sites being represented therein.  Many of the places we've been were still visible in the remainder of the map, and that was fun to see.  It was also confusing, however, because the map is oriented bizarrely.  The map currently lives in a Greek Orthodox church - also jam packed with its own mosaic artwork.  Travis had fun. 

Next we made our way down to the Madaba Museum, where the curator or whoever he was was so desperate for companionship that several things happened: he attached himself to me, he invited us to tea, and he got teary when we left.  It was innocent enough, so although I should have called a halt to the attention I didn't really feel a need to.  Travis was shooed out of the room we were in and he proceeded to ask me to take pictures of everything.  Apparently he was equally as enamored of my camera as of me.  This was impressive, cause I think I smelled pretty gross.  Impishly my new friend sprayed with water the mosaics in his domain to darken the colors for my photos.  I think this was technically not allowed.  Travis returned to find my friend holding my leg while I stood on a bench for a good shot of the mosaic.  He was holding my leg so I wouldn't fall and break my arm like the guy did yesterday.  Hmm.  But like I said, I didn't feel threatened and it wasn't terribly horribly inappropriate, so we all stayed friends. 

When we were about to leave he invited us to take tea.  Although he lived in the city all his life, he was a Bedouin, and you really shouldn't refuse to take tea with a Bedouin if you can help it because it has political repercussions.  Besides, when we told him we had to go he got all teary.  He really liked Americans, he said.  We figured he must be bored out of his mind.  Tea was lovely and perfectly normal, and after it was finished Travis and I made our way onward without mishap. 

I wasn't totally comfortable with the museum experience.  Like I said, I didn't feel threatened, but I knew I was in an Arab country and that Arab boundaries were crossed, and I thought I should be more wary in the future.  Just because this one man was harmless didn't mean that the next one would be.  It was with these thoughts in mind that I proceeded to be 100% sexually harassed. 

The Church of the Apostles has a big mosaic (the largest in Jordan) that has nothing to do with any apostles.  Not anymore, anyway.  The thing you go to see is a medallion of a sea goddess surrounded by little sea creatures including a tiny octopus.  It's very nice. 

What was not very nice was the dirty old man who first tried to kiss me and then grabbed my ass and shoved me into his crotch while my husband had his back turned.  I ran away.  It all didn't go as I would have wished, for many reasons. 

First, I should have been more careful.  I'm not saying that this is my fault, because I should not be taken advantage of just because I'm a white woman, but there are things to do in Arab countries to keep your distance that I just didn't think of as totally necessary (most of the men I'd met were quite decent and conservative).  Therefore I will say that, if you must have physical contact, completely limit it to a handshake.  But keep in mind that Muslim women do not touch Muslim men and they can take advantage of a handshake.  Never allow the cheek kiss - you are not in France or Eastern Europe and the only reason a man will do this to you is to make a play for your mouth or other anatomy. 

Second, after I said no to the kiss attempt, I should have run away immediately.  By not doing so I'd left myself available for the ass grab.  (Sorry Grandma, but it wasn't pretty so the words aren't gonna be either.) 

Third, I should have smacked the skeezy *** and told him exactly how inappropriate his behavior was.  But cowering behind Travis worked alright, too.  If you don't think aggressively on the spot like me, however, you can always write to the tourism board and hope that action will be taken so it doesn't happen to other women.  In the event that action is not taken, I have given you my advice.  The experience still upsets me, so consider that and take care of yourselves. 

Welcome to Madaba.


A note of follow-up:  We have been contacted by the tourism board of Madaba.  This body does take seriously offences against tourists, which should make visitors feels safer because someone will listen to them if an incident does occur.  In a case of mistaken identity, they believed that the man portrayed in a photograph in this entry was the man who harassed me.  He was not.  He is very friendly, only wished to make our visit happy, and we have found that comments written herein, while we believed them to be innocuous, were taken to be more sinister.  I wish to apologize to this man for our rude treatment of him in this writing.  I have slightly modified the entry to make it less hurtful to an individual I had no wish to hurt.  As for the true culprit, because I have no image of him I can only hope that he can be identified.  I suggest that if anyone else has visited and met with harassment they direct complaints to
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Madaba Tourism Development Association
We at MTA so upset from this bad experience you had. And we start today to take action against this man and his behavior.
We thank you so much for your review.

madaba on

Please contact us at MTA
Please we need you to contact us at MTA in order to ask you about the bad man. We are taking action and we want to get the right person not any other if you have photo or description please write for us at
Thank you.

madaba on

Hello from MTA,

Today we got the results from the investigation been done by the Tourism office in Madaba with the tourist police.
There are 2 persons working at the Apostils Church one in the morning and anther at the afternoon both are in the age of 20-25 none of them with the age of 40s, none of them been ever traveled out of Jordan. The man you gave his description is a visitor or somebody from the area around the place. Tourist police trying to find this man.

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