The vibrant city of Mamshit, first settled 2,000 years ago, still amazes visitors as they tour the 350-acre Mamshit National Park, located just east of Dimona on the main Negev road to Eilat.
Among Mamshit’s highlights is “the wealthy house” with spacious rooms built around a courtyard, and a three-story guard tower you can still climb for a fabulous view of the surroundings.
Two churches with mosaics date from the time Mamshit attracted Christian pilgrims crossing the Negev. You’ll also see a typical dwelling in the style of the Nabateans, the people who founded the city, including a stable for 16 horses (the raising of which was an important part of Mamshit’s economy).
On some holidays, when the market street is recreated, you’ll experience the sights, sounds and aromas of yesteryear. You can even camp overnight at the park’s Nabatean Khan (caravansary).
The nomadic Nabateans made Mamshit a station along on the Incense Route, over which they brought frankincense and myrrh out of Arabia to market via the Mediterranean. They also tamed their harsh desert surroundings by harvesting every drop of precious water into a complex system of channels and cisterns.
Their agricultural achievements even inspired Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion to urge settlement in the Negev, with the understanding that this region could (and would) produce bumper crops again.
Once you’ve experienced Mamshit, you’ll know why its ancient cultural, social and economic impact on the region has placed it, together with its Negev sister-cities of Avdat and Shivta, on UNESCO’s prestigious list of World Heritage Sites.