Working with a group of fellow hiking enthusiasts here in Arad we developed a series of 8 short hiking trails around our city of Arad. I took a visiting friend on one of them..
The first picture shows the start of our hike and NO, it is not an underground hike, we just found a hole in the ground to check out (sorry I have had to remove the picture at the request of our friend). The second picture shows some of the larger scenery that you will see on this hike, our mountainous desert, arid, dry, colorful and amazing. The next two pictures show a few of the tiny flowers that manage to live in our desert, but they are not in abundance, you do have to look for them. The last picture shows one of the showcase trees of our desert, the ***a, this tree finds water where there is no water and manages to survive. The Bedouin tribes in this area use them for firewood even though they are in nature preserve park and also a protected species, so they have almost disappeared.
Probably the most popular coffee in Israel is Turkish coffee. You can find all types of coffee from espresso to Late or iced coffee, but Turkish is what you drink when you are on military duty, so many people see it as the most basic and agreeable coffee......A friend decided to make Turkish coffee for us as it is made in Turkey in her home...it was also the base she used to read the coffee grounds for Zohara. (sorry I have had to remove the picture at the request of our friend)
Yes, its true, if you come for a BBQ or dinner we make you work for your supper, Here you see a friend who helped clean off the table in more ways than one...she got stuck with having to shake the tablecloth, poor girl...
(sorry I have had to remove the picture at the request of our friend, she is being forced by her government to remove any signs of her visiting Israel)
Our friend came to visit us for the weekend and we had a small VT meet with Hilla also attending...we planned on doing a desert hike the next morning if we can get up after having such a large meal ^O^
In the west of Arad you will find a lookout. Here 'open air' art is placed at a parking and you can enjoy the view over the desert towards the Dead Sea and Jordan. There are also hiking trails starting from here to discover the desert around Arad. It is a great place especially in the evening light.
Find the lookout here.
Finally our friends Patrick and Lea decided to come visit us here in Arad...we met in Dovje, Slovenia way back in 2001 and met up twice more there and then visited them in their home in Belgium. It was about TIME they showed up here...well they did and some of their adventures with us will be told elsewhere, but as you can see they did enjoy breakfast and also a BBQ with beer, this is of course not to mention, Eilat, Dead Sea, Ein Avdat, Hai Bar Yotvatah, Har Karkom, Havat Arundel, Bird Research Center, Tel Lachish, Maktesh Gadol, Maktesh Ramon, Masada, Nahal David (Ein Gedi) and Timna that we visited together.
When you enter the city, you see a big white tent close to one of the roundabouts. If you pass by it on a Monday, you'll see the market where you can get vegetables, fruit and sometimes clothes and get a glimpse of daily local life.
Unfortunately, I saw it the Monday I arrived to Israel and as it was closing, and then only the empty space the rest of the week.
The fortress of Masada, about 400m high close to the Dead Sea, is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel and a true wonder in itself. It was built around the 1st century BC and then Herod the Great enlarged it by building a cistern, the Hanging Palace (Herod's private residence), the synagogue, the Columbarium, etc.
After Herod died, the fortress changed owners until the Roman siege on the years 70-73 AD (as accounted by the historian Flavius Josephus): the Romans had taken care of the rebels in Jerusalem and Masada was the last Jewish stronghold - so of course they go there. The Jewish did what they could to defend themselves for about 2 years, before the Romans built the "Roman ramp" (and today the west entrance) and a tower to climb the wall and rammed it. When they broke into the complex, they found that the night before the population had decided to commit suicide rather than being defeated by them.
Ruins of most of the buildings are still there for you to contemplate how the Jews lived, like the Mikveh (or their ritual baths), the Columbarium (where the ashes of the non-Jews were put to rest), some of the floor mosaics of the Western Palace, etc.
Of course, the views of the Judean desert area and the Dead Sea are good too (and on a clear day you can see some of the Jordan towns by the Dead Sea - my cell phone even changed carriers while I was there!).
As of May 2010, the entrance to the fortress cost 67 NIS, in addition to the cable car/snake path and museum fees.
There are 2 ways to get from the east entrance to the fortress:
1) The cable car: the easiest way and a nice, scenic ride all the way up to the 400m - and the one I took. There's 2 cable cars operating that go when there's enough people to fill the car. A one-way ticket costs about 40 NIS one way (May 2010) and before you go to the cars, you can see an 8-minute movie about the fortress (free).
2) The snake path: if you want to hike up (or down), then your option is the snake path - a rather steep 45-to-60-minute climb. If you do this, then take enough water because this is a dry and hot area. I think the cost for climbing up is 25 NIS one way (May 2010).
From the west entrance, you can access only on foot by the Roman ramp, but I don't know how much it costs to use that entrance.
Martin (Martin_S) and Zohara said there's a very nice museum by the entrance and that I should visit it first because I was getting out of the premises on the Western side, so I followed their advice.
The Masada museum shows a collection of archaeological findings, as well as the history of the place, discovered by Yigael Yadin and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The museum opened in 2007.
The museum fee isn't included in the fee to the archaeological park (as of May 2010, I believe it was 20 NIS for an adult), so when you pay for it you're asked the language of your preference for the audioguide that's included in the price and that will tell about the artifacts, the direction of the exhibition, where to hang the ear phones and return the guide and that photos are not allowed inside the museum (even without flash). The audioguides start automatically as soon as you enter the exhibition, showing cooking pots, personal articles, etc.
I took the local bus from Arad to Masada and enjoyed my first views of the desert and the Dead Sea on the way there. The bus trip was interesting as the driver was...well speeding a little but at no point I felt unsafe or anything despite the road having so many curves.
Before reaching the resort town of Ein Boqeq, the road looks and feels like a snake slithering on the sand, and I got to see some pathways that made me wonder whether there had been a creek or a water canal there that got dried up due to erosion or the high temperatures; also some bedouin camps and some caves on some hills, probably made by erosion, and that I hoped nobody lived in.
Some times, along the road, you'll see some elevation markings like -100, +200, etc. because the bus went down from Arad to Ein Boqeq, by the Dead Sea and the lowest point of the planet, to then go up a little to Masada's east entrance.
Part of Arad's industrial area has been turned into what today is called "The Artists' quarter", in which classes in dance, music, etc. are given.
While in Arad I had the chance to go see a photo exhibition of some incredible views of Israel, enjoy a few short films made by the photographer (who's studying film making) and some good Israeli hors d'oeuvres.
Yes from half way around the world, Isa showed up on our doorstep wanting to see the holyland...well we could at least help her see the southern half. Arad, Avdat, Ben Gurion's Gravesite, Tzapit Gornie and a few others, not to mention Zohara's cooking at home !!!
We have had the pleasure of having Julie and Vere with us before and so much enjoyed it that we convinced them to return. We also had spent a few days with Julie and Jo at their home in California and at Vere's in Arizona where we had a more than wonderful time. This return trip was even better because they convinced Julie's sisters Jo and Carmen to join them.... We took this photo of them with Zohara on our lawn. Carmen got to hold our cat Nala for the photo ^O^
The lowest point on earth is just 30 minutes drive from Arad. Personally, I didn't meet a tourist, yet, who didn't want to see the Dead Sea, let alone float in it holding a news paper. Dead Sea waters known for its healing powers and many people with skin problems come here to spend some time. Besides enjoying the sea itself you can always visit one of the SPAs located in the area and "paint" yourselves with the famous Dead Sea mud.
There are some things you need to know before you enter the water:
1. Be careful while in the water, don't jump, splash, or dive! It's deadly dangerous!
2. Keep your head up and most definitely don't swallow the water.
3. Make sure the water doesn't get into your eyes. If it happened wash them with a lot of fresh water.
4. If you have even the smallest scratch on your skin in will burn, but it will heal it too.
5. Ladies, shave your legs a day before otherwise you'll suffer and a lot!
6. Don't go to float with your watch on, it will not work when you finish enjoying the water.
7. If your jewerly is not pure gold or silver better leave ashore.
If you remember these simple rules, you'll enjoy your floating session tremendously. And don't miss this opportunity, especially if you're already in Arad.