The sun-baked remains of the ancient desert community of Shivta never cease to amaze visitors. Together with its sister-cities, Avdat and Mamshit, Shivta began life as a caravan stop in the Negev for the Nabatean masters of the Incense Route, and flourished after Christianity came to the Negev in the fourth century.
These three cities and the Incense Route have now been inscribed on the prestigious UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Shivta’s people were mainly farmers, producing a variety of crops by collecting every rare and precious drop of rain; their wine press can still be seen. Shivta had two churches; the magnificent Northern Church had marble covered-walls and displayed sacred relics that Christians came from far and wide to see. A large, cruciform baptismal font was also discovered, hewn entirely out of one rock, along with marble tombstones of clergy who served here. An 800-yard trail leads to a modern-day orchard north of the site, which utilizes ancient methods to raise carobs, figs, almonds, plums, olives, pomegranates, peaches, apricots and grapes.