The Negev Desert Travel Guide
The Negev is a desert and semidesert region of southern Israel. The region’s largest city and administrative capital is Beersheba, in the north. At its southern end is the Gulf of Aqaba and the resort city of Eilat. It contains several development towns, including Dimona, Arad and Mitzpe Ramon, as well as a number of small Bedouin cities. There are also several kibbutzim, including Sde Boker; the latter became the home of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion.
The Negev covers more than half of Israel. It forms an inverted triangle shape whose western side is contiguous with the desert of the Sinai Peninsula, and whose eastern border is the Arabah valley. The Negev has a number of interesting cultural and geological features. Among the latter are three enormous, crater like makhteshim, which are unique to the region; Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater), Makhtesh Gadol, and Makhtesh Katan.
The Negev is a rocky desert. It is a melange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interrupted by wadis and deep craters. It can be split into five different ecological regions: northern, western, and central Negev, the high plateau and the Arabah Valley. The northern Negev, or Mediterranean zone, receives 300 mm of rain annually and has fairly fertile soils. The western Negev receives 250 mm of rain per year, with light and partially sandy soils. Sand dunes can reach heights of up to 30 metres here. Home to the city of Beersheba, the central Negev has an annual precipitation of 200 mm and is characterized by impervious soil, known as loess, allowing minimum penetration of water with greater soil erosion and water runoff. The high plateau area of Ramat HaNegev (The Negev Heights) stands between 370 metres and 520 metres above sea level with extreme temperatures in summer and winter. The area gets 100 mm of rain per year, with inferior and partially salty soils. The Arabah Valley along the Jordanian border stretches 180 km from Eilat in the south to the tip of the Dead Sea in the north. The Arabah Valley is very arid with barely 50 mm of rain annually. It has inferior soils in which little can grow without irrigation and special soil additives.
As of 2010 the Negev was home to some 630,000 people ( 8.2% of Israel’s population), even though it comprises over 55% of the country’s landmass. 470,000 Negev residents or 75% of the population of the Negev are Jews while 160,000 or 25% are Bedouin. Of the Bedouin population, half live in unrecognized villages, and half live in towns built for them by the government between the 1960 and 1980s; the largest of these is Rahat.
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Top things to do and see in the Negev
Ein Avdat national park
Hai Bar Yotvata nature reserve
The salt evaporation ponds