You can see the Nabatean town of Mamshit (memphis) from 1st century AD. Best reconstruction in the Negev in my eyes. The place has also an organized camp ground. If it is not too hot, you can go down from the old town to the Mamshit Wadi (Canyon) it is about 1hour walk with nice view on old and new dams.
For two weeks a year the ancient city of Mamshit, a UNESCO World Heritage site, hosts a Nabbatean Fair. All the ancient shops, which archaeologists uncovered recently, are reopened, and host vendors marketing olive oil, Beduin crafts, olives, copperware, purses, hats, dggers, old coins, spices, etc. There are also fortune tellers, palm readers, and a glass blower. There are all sorts of activities specially for children, such as decorating their faces, performances by clowns, story-telling.
The fair takes place on two separate occasions, one week each time. These are the weeks following the first day of Passover and the first day of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. These holidays change their date from year to year, according to the Jewish lunar calendar, but they are always in the early spring and early fall.
The fair attracts thousands of people, which is not surprising given how interesting it is, coupled with free parking and cheap admission. The price of admission also includes the right to wander around the ancient Nabbatean city for the whole day, admiring the ancient churches with their mosaic floors, the ancient dam, and the old Briitish police station.
Just east of the city of Dimona (at junction of highways 25/204) you will find Nahal Dimona. Here at the right time of year you will find in the dry riverbed clumps and bunches of beautiful blooming Narcissis...and the right time of year is also dependent on the amount of rainfall. So if we have several rainfalls in the early winter, late November and December, then in January you will find it worth your while to visit here.
To order food, just walk up to the counter, point to a picture of what you want, and give the waiter or waitress your name. They do incredible breakfasts, sandwiches, hot and cold chocolate, many different kinds of coffee, huge salads, and various cakes, mostly cheese and strudel. You can sit outside, inside next to a large video screen, or inside in a special quiet area away from everything else. The cafe has a free water cooler with plastic cups, free newspapers to read while you're waiting/eating, a bookstore next door where you can buy a paper if you don't like the ones they offer (i.e. if you can't read Hebrew), and an SMS jukebox. You pick the song you like from a menu, send an SMS, an a minute later your song of choice appears on the big screen. Welcome to the 21st Century.
Favorite Dish: The huge breakfast consists of two eggs done any way you like. One interesting option is with spices and herbs mixed in a huge omelet. This comes with a large mixed salad with two kinds of white cheese, a plain white cheese and a salty Bulgarian cheese. The salad also comes with two salad dressings in separate containers which you can add if you want. Next to the salad come two thick slices of bread. You choose what kind of bread you want - country, light, or white. Butter and hot coffee or cocoa round out the meal, which is served anytime during the day.
Ron HaGadol between the post office and the downtown plaza. The ambience is a delight - a dark contrast to the glaring sun outside. It is possible to ask for a window seat, and look out over the large central park where children play, couples stroll, and old Russian men play chess. The waiters will serve you a large selection of Middle Eastern salads, in unlimited quantities, and then ask what you'd like grilled for your main course, the choices being various shishliks, kebabs, and internal parts, as well as aged steak or fish.
Favorite Dish: I like the aged steak, which the chef will happily cook up to any degree of wellness you prefer. However, the fish is excellent, and the truth is, I've never eaten anything there that wasn't very good.
Although there is a decent bus service inside the city, most residents don't bother. Around 90 taxis drive around the city all day, looking for customers. A taxi will take you from anywhere to anywhere for NIS 5 (around $1.25). However, he will pick up other passengers along the way, and charge them the same. He will take whatever route makes the most sense to him. I keep saying he, although there are several female taxi drivers in Dimona.
If you're going to the industrial zone or the train station, both of which are at the entrance to town, the fee is a few Shekels higher ($1 - NIS4 as I write this, in May 2007).
Sometimes the driver will give a ride to a friend along the way, or even stop at a gas station to buy gas while you're in the car with him. It's all part of the cheap price.
If you prefer, you can say to the driver "monit special", in which case he will turn on the meter, take you where you want to go the quickest way possible, and not pick up anyone else. This costs at least twice as much, however.
It's also easy to simply walk around Dimona.
It is possible to reach Dimona by train. Simply get on a train to Beersheva and transfer at the northern train station to the Dimona train. There are five trains a day to Dimona in each direction. The English schedule is available here: http://www.israrail.org.il/english/ . There are buttons at the bottom of that page for information and schedules in Russian and Hebrew as well.
If you prefer, you can take a train to Beersheva Central Station, and then cross the street and take a Moniot Ayal taxi to any address in Dimona, for the price of a bus ticket.
There are two major shopping areas in Dimona. The first is the downtown area, which consists of shops lining both sides of a covered plaza, an open plaza surrounded by pizza and bourekas restaurants, and buildings to the north and south of the open plaza also containing shops. Here you can also find a small supermarket, four banks, and three ATMs. If you need a toilet and don't feel like asking one of the cafes to use theirs, walk up to the first or second floor of the municipality building, where you'll find toilets and water coolers. If you walk one block north along the east side of the downtown ("mercaz" in Hebrew), you'll come to the main post office, where the clerks will be happy to help philatelists buy blocks-of-four or one of each of the many different stamps in use. You can also send a fax, buy telephone cards, exchange foreign currency and use the services of Western Union to receive and send money abroad.
The other main shopping area is the Peretz Mall, situated across from the northern entrance to the city. As expected, the mall contains a large hardware store, a large pharmacy, a number of restaurants, and the only supermarket I've ever seen with a synagogue right inside. In addition, there are quite a few clothing stores and shoe stores, all run by major chains. You'll also find a decent bookstore and several jewellery stores featuring Israeli jewellery in the airconditioned mall.
There are several large supermarkets in various locations throughout Dimona, selling so many different items that they are in many ways more like department stores than like regular supermarkets.
What to buy: 1. The 2nd-best fellafel in the country. Right downtown, Hertzl's Fellafel, inside the covered plaza area. Do not deny yourself this treat.
2. The most famous barber in the country. Dani Figaro made it into the Guinness Book of Records for controlling nine pairs of scissors independently during one haircut. Beware, because Dani has several brothers and nephews, all of whom own barber-shops called Figaro. Dani's shop is next to the large Kupat Cholim Bet health clinic, adjoining downtown.
3. There are a number of stores in Dimona with the word "gastronom" written in Cyrillic letters. This is where the non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union buy their non-kosher food. It's fascinating to watch the clientelle and listen to them shop. It's like they never left home!
What to pay: Most Israelis find much of Europe expensive, and they find the U.S. to be fairly inexpensive. This means that Dimona prices are inbetween European and American prices. On the other hand, the one hotel in Dimona (see my hotel page) is very inexpensive.