Wednesday, April 4, 2012

TIME OUT - Part 2

Of course we did not sit for three days at Be'erotaim, near the tiny settlement of Ezuz, with our feet up on the porch of the hut. 
The Negev Desert is far too interesting for this, and sends out calls to wander around, to explore, to discover the charm of a rather ragged, rough and arid landscape. Spending time in the desert is often not so comfortable. It includes to endure heat, dust, dry air, blazing sun, or hazy sky. But the allure of the desert gives also cause to drift into special emotions - it evokes feelings of timelessness, of separation for a while from reality, of absence from daily routine. There is the dry heat of the desert. The breeze in the morning and evening. The howling of the jackals at night. The clean air. The stars are bright on the sky, no pollution disturbs their sight. After a good sleep the desert whispers in the morning: come, come, look around, here, there, further, and everywhere my tales are told! And we obey! In visiting old and ancient places we are transferred to the far away past and meet strange and different people and cultures. I can feel them, I can hear them, I can see them in my imagination, the simple people - living, building, praying, farming, herding. The rulers and kings, the destroyers and warriors. Yes, in that vast seemingly empty space, the Negev Desert, took place a bustling history during thousands of years. And we strive, again and again, to get a glimpse of it. And there is the nature, the hills and mountains, the dry barren earth, the sand, the stones and rocks, the colors, oh yes those muted soft colors of the desert, the wadis, the desert plants and trees, the precious desert flowers, sometimes plenty, in other years very few, and on occasion, if we are lucky a shy desert animal.

Be'erotaim, Hebrew for "two wells", is a small oasis. Tamarisk and Eucalyptus trees were planted a century ago, and beautiful old palm trees stand erect high above ground.
From the porch of our hut we could see a small segment of the Ottoman railroad and the remains of a train station.

Before the Ottomans were defeated by the English in the early 20th century they had established here quite an empire which ended with the first world war when the British Mandate started to rule Palestine. One of the big accomplishments by the Turks before that, was the building of a railway system. In an attempt to reinforce their power near the border of Egypt a railway construction was started there too, and finished in part, it was in use by the Turkish army only for a short time and then taken over by English and Australian forces. We went to visit remnants of Turkish stations and a high water tower along the railway. 

The Turkish water tower

A German-Turkish hospital built on remains of a Byzantine fort at Nizzana

This recent record is interesting. But far more exciting is the ancient history of the region. Tel Nizzana is one of those places just near by. Ancient Nizzana is a Nabatean city, one of six posts built by the Nabateans in the Negev. We visited together already Petra in Jordan, the most impressive Nabatean capital, and Shivta and Avdat in the Negev, you remember?

Those former nomadic tribes did not fear the harsh and difficult conditions of the desert. They were experts in searching and finding water, and masters in engineering it into the most sophisticated arrangements, and using it in the best  possible and prolific way. Nizzana was one of those settlements who had great control over the water and the area. The Nabateans had a watchful eye on the eastern part of the Incense Road and made profit by trading, buying and selling spices and incense. Not much was excavated from that period of time. 
The mound was later inhabited by Christians and these are the ruins of a Byzantine church on the location.
A very stunning discovery was made at Nizzana, the Nessana papyri, written in Greek and Arabic and telling about Nabatean life during the 5th and 6th century CE. 

All photos by Uri Eshkar


Smilla said...

Ja diese Wüstenregionen haben wahrlich auch ihre Reize... aber so ohne Regen... nur schon der Gedanke lässt mich schwer werden.... aber eben wir haben hier zu trocken und der Regenmangel ist ein grosses Thema... Wie muss es wohl den Bauern in diesen Regionen trotz Gewohnheit ergehen?
♥-liche Grüsse und feiert schön

Eva said...

What an exiting region for anyone who loves to explore past cultures. How lovely to be taken along visually. Thank you for these wonderful pictures and the picturesque description!

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I admit, I don't know much about the history of this region. Your post is most interesting and the pictures give me a different thought of what the desert actually is.

I am wondering if you must be careful of snakes and venomous insects.

Its a beautiful place and I have an idea that it would be an excellent place to re-energize.

Annuk said...

Thank you for these two wonderful posts, Yael! I truly enjoyed them both, it's been again a journey in time and space... and you made the atmosphere and primeval magic of the desert so vividly alive with your words!!! I almost felt like I could see these breathtaking starry nights, those moving sundawns and sunsets, and feel the whispers of peoples that have lived, worked, created, suffered in these intense places.
Gorgeous photos as always, bravo Uri!

Waving from Rhodes :)

Annuk said...

Oh, and happy doggy! :) He must be so proud to accompany you on your explorations!

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

It's a great love affair with a magical place--and that you can experience and share it with us is like traveling on a magic carpet to these far-off places...

Bob Bushell said...

Oh, that is one piece of land sure is beautiful.

wanda miller said...

WHAT a TREASURE to have found you, yael! and your husband, his photos, your history is so wonderful to visit here and learn and SEE! my husband and i have lived twice in the deserts here in california (i'm sure the history is quite different)and have loved it as well! HAPPY HOPPY EASTER, DEAR FRIEND! XOXO

Friko said...

Thank you for taking me on this fascinating journey into the ancient past in a place which is unknown to me.

It would indeed be vastly interesting to explore the history of the Negev.

TarracoStyle said...

vives en una tierra fabulosa, con una gran cultura.

Zaunwinde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zaunwinde said...

Ich habe mit Genuss deine Beschreibung der Wüste gelesen, vielen Dank, Yael, für den Einblick.
Solch ein Ausflug ist schon ein großes Erlebnis und wird sicher unvergessen bleiben.
Vielen Dank für deine herrliche Beschreibung!
♥lichst Zaunwinde

ich hatte mich verschrieben, deshalb die vorherige Löschung!

glazedOver Pottery said...

You two certainly walk the length and breadth of the land! You breathe life into the ruins with your imaginings and enrich us all with such rich posts as these.