The Negev desert fascinates. It allures the curious traveler who desires to experience the majesty of strikingly vast landscapes, walk amongst rugged terrain and stand beneath star-studded skies. Whilst the desert is perceived by many as a beautiful kind of emptiness, its boundless landscape is a goldmine for discovering the hidden treasures of the land that allude to a unique history, geography and people. The inquisitive visitor can learn many things about life here in the Negev, both past and present, if they keep their eyes peeled and mind open. Here are five ‘Easter eggs’, or unexpected things visitors might be surprised to know that they can see, do or find in and around the Negev desert.
The vein of the worlds’ most ancient civilizations runs deep through the heart of the Negev. Our ancient story is still preserved through rock art and inscriptions scattered throughout the desert that have lain here for more than 4,000 years.
Many carvings are still undeciphered, but one can still make out stars, constellations, myths and even the familiar ibex. Rough and rugged in design, these carvings still represent deep meaning and offer a glimpse at our ancient world through the eyes of our ancestors. Keep an eye out on the trail, as many of these archaic etchings are unmarked, and you might just walk right by one! What shapes and stories will you find?
The Makhtesh of the Negev hold many secrets of our planets history within its crater walls. The story of the earth is written into the rock strata, in a physical timeline that stretches nearly 200 million years into the past. Millions of years ago, all of the Makhtesh in the Negev were below the surface of ancient oceans which eventually drained away, leaving behind the unique landforms we see today. Some of the underwater inhabitants of this epoch long past are still around, fossilized into the stone like a reminder of the colossal history shared by these very special landscapes. Keep your eyes peeled for the Ammonite wall in Makhtesh Ramon, where one can see the fossilized swirls and spirals of million year-old molluscs tessellating into the rock-face.
There’s something exhilarating about standing at the roads edge with an outstretched thumb, waiting in anticipation to see the amber blink of indicators, hoping for a vehicle to pull over and carry you onwards. Who will your driver be? A local inhabitant? A fellow traveler?
Will you be able to communicate in a common tongue, or simply through hand gestures and smiles? Hitch hiking in the Negev is safe and common practice, testament to the beauty of not only the landscape, but the attitude of the people as well.
Many hiking trails end at the highway, making hitching the only viable option to return to the start of the trail in any case. The friendly and fantastic people one finds in the Negev makes hitching fun, and the unique cross section of people one meets makes for an interesting ride, and a great way to end a hike.
Life after the rain
The life that springs up in the desert from such a scarcity of water is amazing. The rare event of rain brings life into bloom for a short but special period. Desert flowers normally pursed shut in the face of dry heat unfold to drink in the water. Little desert snails litter the trails as the rain awakens them from a slumber that can last up to a year long. In this short window, they get busy: munching up another year’s supply of food and finding a mate, retreating into their shells before the water finally dries up. (If you thought you had a busy schedule!) The greens of the sparse plants glow that little bit brighter, and the air feels that little bit fresher. Head out on a drizzly day, or a showery morning to catch the desert in this rare but stunning state of animation and vitality.
Magnificent sunrises and sunsets
Something as simple as the rising and the setting of the sun can be a spectacle, we only need to give it a stage and become spectators. With its stunning reddish-brown landscapes and rugged silhouettes, nowhere sets the scene quite like the desert. Climb camel hill, or find a nice vantage point to watch the sun cast its rich glow, gradually deepening the shadowy contours of the sand and rocks as it dips lower and lower into a craggy horizon.