The Desert Winds….

by Sarah on October 25, 2010

negev desert

It’s already October but summer is languishing, lazy and obstinate, unwilling to leave. Autumn may be the guest of honor but summer has stolen the show.  I feel like a kid whose birthday was forgotten- where is the cool breeze that was promised? Where is the rain? In the asphalt world of Israel, even lovers of warmth search longingly for dark clouds, almost legendary in their non existence. Instead of being outside exploring, we are bullied into our corner with only the aircon to comfort us, unable to leave our protective cocoon.

So with the first lull in the heat, still hot but not unbearable, we packed everything into our small car and headed south. We were stuffed like sardines, squashed in between tents, water bottles, fire wood and food and in an odd way, this felt like freedom. The Negev Desert covers half of the country, and is by far the emptiest and most remote area of Israel. It keeps everyone at a distance with its seasonal extremes of searing temperatures and flash floods. In the past only the hardiest and most innovated survived in these conditions.

negev desert

It is here the ancient Nabateans once flourished, controlling vast areas of land and the spice caravans that passed through them. The spices may have been the most important commodity but without water their complex society could not have developed or continued as long as it did. Agriculturalists have studied how Nabatean harnessed run-off water in the winter to survive in the arid climate, funneling it to crop fields or into water cisterns to use during times of scarcity.  Remnants of this ancient society can still be seen today in Mamshit and Avdat in Israel and the famous Petra in Jordan. To support these commercial and urban centers, complex engineering was needed to supply them with a constant flow of water, including terraces, cisterns, funnels and tunnels that still exist in areas of the central Negev.  Scientists are trying to implement these techniques into modern agriculture, domesticating the seasonal rains to make the desert bloom, if only for a short stretch of land.

negev desert tree

negev desert

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