March 12, 2007

Mitspeh Ramon, Eilat, Massada

Mitspeh Ramon is a town of 6,000 overlooking the Ramon crater. I enjoyed walking along the edge of the crater and staying for the night in this quite town. The sky was so clear at night, it's a joy to watch the stars. But the town is lit so you have to walk outside of the city to enjoy the night sky really. It's very very windy and, after sunset, it feels very cold.

In Eilat, I didn't do much apart from relaxing on the beach. Well nothing but relaxing on the beach. The water was still a bit cold for swimming though, I stayed only 10 minutes each day in the water...

Jordan is only a few kilometers away (one can see the large flag of Aqaba), and on the other side it's Egypt, further down though. The two countries which are fortunately in peace with Israel...

Massada was amazing. I climbed up the hill (it takes about 45 minutes in the scorching sun). The Dead Sea is at a -400 meters altitude, the beginning of the path must be at -350 m and the fortress at the top approximately sea level (I mean 0 m, not the Dead Sea level...). The most impressive things for me were learning about the water system built by Herod (water from the rainfall and floods sere directed by dams and aquaducts towards pits in the cliff about 100 or 200 meters downhill from the fortress and then carried up by animals - this water filling a swimming pool, several baths and water cisterns, and enabling some agriculture!) and seeing the remains of the camps and the ramp built by the Romans to suppress this stronghold of the Jewish revolt.

As I was about to walk down, I ran into friends from Paris who were on an extended weekend in Israel! This was really unbelievable. They were on their way to lunch so I joined them, which gave me the invaluable opportunity of spending a couple of hours in this ugly, disgusting hotel complex at Ein Bokek which includes the Meridien David, Crowne Plaza, Hod, Tsell Harim and Lot hotels. No chance to splash in the Dead Sea though, I was eager to come home with the 4:50pm camel service which brought me home through the Palestinian Territories. I thought all buses which ran through the Palestinian Territories were bulletproof but I was wrong and I was also astonished by how seamlessly we crossed in after Ein Gedi somewhere (a roadblock at which we just slowed down a little bit). I was asleep when we crossed into East Jerusalem: I woke up when the bus was somewhere between Mount Scopus and the bus station.

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