The Negev is a geographical area located in the South of Israel. It is a desert which is part of the of the world Subtropical ridge, unlike the Judea Desert which is a rain shadow desert.
If you imagine a desert as sand dunes and camels, well you are right only about the camel part when it comes to the Negev Desert.
The Negev scenery is a combination of plains and mountains, both are very rocky. In Mitzpe Ramon, which is 900 meter above sea level, it can be snowing during hard winters. The Negev desert covers 60% of Israel area.
When is the best time to visit the Negev Desert?
November to April - Will be the best time to visit. it's not too hot and can be a great getaway from winter.
- There is a big difference between day and night temperature. The night in the desert can be very cold. make sure to have warm clothes for the night.
- although it is a desert, check the forecast, it can be rainy once in a while during the winter and some days can be really cold during the day too.
April to November - It will be hot, very hot.
- Doing hard physical activities like multi-day hiking/cycling is not recommended.
- Make sure to rest during the mid-day hottest hours.
- Take even more water than you think you will need.
People in the Negev
Although the Negev Desert consist 60% of Israel area, less than 14% of the people live there. Historically, the area was always poor in population because of the harsh desert condition and the lack of water sources. Be'er Sheva is the biggest city in the Negev, it is located in the Northern part of the Negev. It is not interesting four tourists at all, but you will probably be passing through as it is the public transport gate to the rest of the Negev.
The rest of the Negev is settled by small towns and kibbutzes. Some of the kibbutzes are famous for their world-class desert agriculture. You can read more here.
At the southern edge of the Negev, where the border triangle between Egypt, Israel, and Jordan lays the city of Eilat which is a resort and vacation destination. It is Israel's access to the Red Sea.
The Nabataean People
In the ancient time, the people who dominated the area south of Be'er Sheva were the Nabataean. the Nabataean were nomad people from Arabia who were expert for survival in the desert. They became rich and famous for the Incense route they created. because of their knowledge of desert survival, they manage to cross the desert from Yemen to the Mediterranean delivering high-value goods like spices and perfumes.
The Nabataean were flourishing between 200CE-400AD and during this time they were building few towns along their trading route in the Negev. You can read more here.
The Nabataeans lost their power as the Roman Empire started to trade by ships and eventually accepted Christianity and assimilated into the Bizantine Empire.
Bedouins are nomadic Arabs tribes which in a way, preserved some of the Nabataeans traditions. In Israel, they live in small towns in Northern Israel and in the Negev some of them preserve the nomad culture. The Bedouin's relation with the state is complex. In the Negev many Bedouins live in a semi-nomadic lifestyle, the state wants to regulate it and there is a dispute about the territories on which they can settle.
The Bedouin's relation with the state is complex. In the Negev many Bedouins live in a semi-nomadic lifestyle, the state wants to regulate it and there is a dispute about the territories on which they can settle. Along the desert landscapes and around the city of Be'er Sheva you will see Bedouin tent scattered around.
On the other hand, some of the Bedouins tribes had good relations with the Jews and as the state was established chose to be part of the state and serve in the armed forces as trackers and scouts. There is also a Bedouin battalion in the IDF.
If you are interested you can check this place, the Bedouin Museum, and Heritage Center.
Becuase of the hard conditions, low population density, and vast plains, the military established most of its bases in the Negev. And because no one asks the soldiers where they want to spend their service time.
Huge parts of the deeper deserts are training grounds for the military. Most of the buses which go south of Be'er Sheva will be filled with soldiers.
Hiking in the Negev Desert
Some of the best hikes in Israel are located in the Negev. Eilat, Sde Boker, and Mitzpe Ramon are famous for their trails and are also easy to reach by public transport.
Remember! Always when hiking in the desert, take more water than you will need, and then take a bit more.
Because of the low population density, the man-made light pollution is very low. Combine it with the fact that the sky are clear from clouds most of the time and you will get an excellent area for star gazing. In Mitzpe Ramon there is an observatory.