Along the Nabatean Spice Route

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Be’erot Campsite – Moa

Segment length: 35 km
Starting point: Be’erot Campsite
Ending point: Moa
Services on route: None
Average riding time:
8 hours
Water: 8 liters per person
Level: Difficult

This section is devoted to one of the most beautiful routes in the Negev: the Nabatean Spice Route, which UNESCO has declared a World Heritage Site. The Spice Route exits the crater through the impressive canyon of Nahal Nekarot and reaches Moa in the Arava Valley.

Itinerary:
From the Be’erot Campsite, the route runs through the Ramat Saharonim plateau, passing enigmatic rows of ancient graves. At the plateau’s eastern edge, the IBT descends into the riverbed of Nahal Ardon and reaches the exit from the makhtesh through the natural gate of Nahal Nekarot. For the duration of the canyon, the IBT runs along the sides of the riverbed; every now and then, it crosses from one side to the other. The trail passes the Nekarot fortress and follows the Spice Route as it climbs up Mount Massa, reaching the ancient fortress of Horbat Kazra. The trail descends into the Nahal Kazra Riverbed and finally reaches the largest of all the caravan stations in the Negev at Moa.

  • Saharonim Plateau: Two parallel rows of ancient tumuli run across the plateau. It is believed that these burial sites date to the Chalcolithic or Early Bronze Age (6,000 years ago). Remains of settlements have not been found nearby, so it appears that the deceased were brought here from far away for the burial ceremony.
  • Dikes in Nahal Ardon: A unique geological phenomenon can be seen in Nahal Ardon: six volcanic intrusions (called dikes) that penetrated the layers of sandstone along Nahal Ardon’s northwestern bank. The dikes are evidence of extensive volcanic activity millions of years before the makhtesh formed.
  • Kazra Fortress: The structure, which is preserved to a height of more than two meters, affords a magnificent view of the Arava and the Mountains of Edom. Another structure that may have been for ritual use is adjacent to the fortress. There also is a cistern nearby.
  • Nahal Kazra: This riverbed’s Hebrew name is derived from the sound of its name in Arabic, Wadi Um Kaser, which means, “The Riverbed of the Small Castle.” Desert hikers refer to the severe wrinkling of the layers of flint along the river’s banks as, “fingers of God.”
  • Nahal Nekarot: This is one of the largest riverbeds in the Negev. Its Hebrew name is a translation of its Arabic name, Wadi al Sik, which means “Gorge River.” The head of the river is in the eastern region of the Negev Highlands near the border with the Sinai Desert.
  • Nekarot Fortress: A large structure sits on Nahal Nekarot’s north bank by the point where it meets Nahal Meshar. An abundance of Roman and Byzantine pottery can be found around the building. To the east of the fortress, at the top of a narrow mountain spine, is a guard tower. The stronghold protected the Spice Route between Moa and the Ramon Crater. Nearby is a large ancient cistern, still completely intact.
  • Moa: Known in Arabic as Moad Awad, meaning “the Water of Awad,” the enigmatic name perhaps refers to a rich Bedouin landowner many generations ago. Until a few decades ago, one could see the wells dug in the riverbed, which has a high water table though the water is quite salty. Today, only a few thickets of salt-loving plants reveal the presence of the water. In 1982, excavations were conducted in the structure above the riverbed, which turned out to be a Nabatean caravanserai dated to between the mid-first century BCE and the first century CE.

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