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Avdat National Park Reopens After Restoration

The UNESCO World Heritage site at the Avdat National Park in Israel’s Negev desert has recently re-opened to the public after a three-year restoration and rehabilitation program.

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The UNESCO World Heritage site at the Avdat National Park in Israel’s Negev desert has recently re-opened to the public after a three-year restoration and rehabilitation program. The site, one of four sites in the area with UNESCO World​ Heritage status which is located on the ancient Nabatean Spice Route and is a popular stop-off point for Christian pilgrims and holidaymakers en route to Eilat, was severely damaged by vandals in October 2009. A $2 million rehabilitation program to repair the damage included restoring smashed stones and Byzantine church columns and removing graffiti scrawled over an altar and walls and even on one of Israel’s oldest wine presses. As part of the program, displays that demonstrate how the Nabatean city appeared 2,000 years ago were included in the site. Visitors to Avdat National Park can watch a movie at the Visitors’ Center that gives an explanation of the site and its history.

 

The Nabatean city of Avdat, named after King Obodas who was known in Arabic as Abdah, is located in Avdat National Park, which includes hiking trails, springs, groves and wildlife. According to historians, the Nabateans were nomadic tribes from northern Arabia who settled in the area after the first century. The Nabatean way stations at the main crossroads in the Negev developed into cities, where the former nomads developed an agriculture based on terraces built on the hillsides.

 

Nabatean Avdat included a residential quarter, a military camp and various pens in which camels, sheep and goats were kept, and horses which became famous as racehorses were bred. After the Romans conquered the Nabatean kingdom, Avdat fell into decline and much was destroyed in an earthquake in the year 363. In the sixth century, under Byzantine rule, a citadel and a monastery with two churches were built on the acropolis and residential quarters were established on the slopes. This city was destroyed, probably by another earthquake, and abandoned in the seventh century.

 

The other three Nabatean cities on the Spice Route are Haluza, Mamshit and Shivta, all worthy of a visit. Avdat is located on the Be’er Sheva-Mitzpe Ramon road.

 

Photo Credit: Courtesy Israel Nature and Parks Authority

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