DESERT SAFARI TO THE DEAD SEA
By Chris McBeath
So for safari purposes, you'll need to trade up to an all-terrain desert vehicle of the motorized variety. The ride isn't necessarily any more comfortable, but a jeep will get you to places that camels fear to tread - across ditches, and through the crevices, canyons, and plateaus of the Negev Mountains.
Like the country itself, these desert landscapes are a study in contradictions. They are still home to a handful of Bedhouin tribes whose black tents and sheep herds hint of their nomadic authenticity. The Negev is where you'll find the simple homestead of Ben Gurion, Israel's founding father; Sde Boker, one of Israel's few remaining kibbutz; as well 2nd century Bezantyne stone- walls, colonies of desert snails, and not infrequently, spent shells from army training exercises - the Israelis practice only with real ammunition.
However you explore the desert, the topography promises the unexpected.Crater Expectations
Ramon Crater is such a place. Measuring 40km long, and up to 10 km wide, it is the largest of three Negev craters, and contains fascinating geological formations, and a rock-strata found nowhere else in the world. Some sculpted outcrops are 200 million years old, which strut their stuff at every sunset with brilliant hues of salmon and cinnamon, pink, orange, and various hues of hazy blue.
Nothing, however, quite prepares you for dawn atop the Masada.
Spread over a 9.3-hectare plateau on a singular mountain bloc that rises straight up for 450 meters, this palatial fortress includes the remnants of a three-story, cliff-clinging palace as well as residences, storerooms, baths, terraces, vast water cisterns and a synagogue. Built by Herod the Great in 67BC, the genius of architecture is undisputable. And as the last bastion of Jewish freedom fighters that chose suicide rather than submit to Roman attackers in AD73, its mythology is the stuff of legends - although intriguingly, no human bones have ever found on or anywhere near the site. The western gate is still reached via the Roman's original siege ramp path and as the sun casts its morning glow across the Dead Sea and over Masada's crumbling maze, it can't help but stir the imagination as to what has gone before. But that's the pull of Israel. With every step and every breath, you are following stories of biblical and multi-faith proportions, which for such a tiny country is a story unto itself.
If You Go:
Israel Ministry of Tourism: www.goisreal.com
© Travelink Publishing - All Rights Reserved