Quite a long day today, and certainly the best one so far.
Masada is another ancient site that’s definitely worth a visit. It is a fortress that sits on a flat-top mountain high above the Dead Sea. It reminded me of Jugurtha’s Table in Tunisia.
We wanted to watch the sun rise from up there and got up early. Or tried to. I’m not good at waking up early and so we were a bit late. That wasn’t a big problem though, as clouds hid the sun while we were still climbing the narrow path to the top.
The view from up there was magnificent, and the history of the place and the archaeological findings are very interesting, too.
Mt Sodom was next en route, a mountain consisting to 98% of salt. It’s quite an interesting sight, and the walk to the summit is a lot of fun. The vistas, however, are even more grand than from Masada.
Not far from Mt Sodom we stopped at a cave’s entrance next to the road. We didn’t know if there was anything interesting to be seen and stumbled into the darkness, armed with just one flashlight. An older couple followed us in and was soon ahead of us. They seemed to be looking for something specific. We didn’t know what that was exactly and turned around. I kind of hit my head at a large rock, it didn’t hurt much but it was bleeding quite a bit. On the way out we met another group of older Israelis. They didn’t go far into the cave and we chatted a bit. One of them spoke German and it was a bit weird for us to be talking to someone who’s family was killed or displaced by ‘us Germans’. He didn’t seem to have any hard feelings, though.
A few minutes later the first older couple reappeared from the cave and asked us whether we had found ‘it’. We didn’t know what they meant, and they explained. We saw ourselves forced to go back in and find ‘it’.
‘It’ is not easily described. The cave had been beautiful so far, no doubt, but in there we had taken a wrong turn somewhere and hence missed ‘it’. From a narrow tunnel all of a sudden we could see an illuminated chamber. That was a wow-sight of its own. Stepping into the chamber we realized where the light came from. The chamber really was a kind of a chimney, probably 30 to 50 meters high, almost round and maybe 4-5 meters in diameter. We could see the blue sky above it.
Our next stop was ‘Small Makhtesh’, an erosion cirque of massive dimensions (there is Big Makhtesh as well!), a couple of kilometers over dirt tracks off the main road. We entered it at the bottom and therefore couldn’t quite appreciate its magnificence – we simply didn’t see it.
We had a short break at the city of Be’er Sheva (pronounced Beersheba), where Charlotte had lived for a little while a couple of years ago while helping with archaeological excavations in the Negev desert.
The last stop before Tel Aviv was in the Arab village of Lakiya. There were two interesting institutions there – Desert Embroidery and Lakiya Weaving – which are run by/for local Bedouin women to teach them the arts of embroidery, weaving and dying, and to enable them to earn money. They were also both closed at the time of our arrival.
On to Tel Aviv. A massive city. We got lost, of course, trying to find the hostel.