In the Negev Highlands the ruined city of Avdat rises above the streambed of the Wilderness of Zin.
Once, the Israelites wandered here. Later, the Nabatean sons of the desert, their camels packed with spices bound for the Mediterranean, founded Avdat. Together with its sister cities of Shivta and Mamshit, it became a stopover for their caravans.
Under Roman domination, Avdat grew from caravansary to city, and when the Byzantines brought Christianity to the Negev, the Nabatean shrines became churches and Avdat flourished as never before.
At one church, with a breathtaking view of the desert, you’ll see a cross-shaped baptistery, alongside another, smaller one for babies. A wine-press reveals ancient agricultural skills that defied the desert, and that today’s Negev farmers seek to emulate.
You can also walk through a reconstructed Byzantine courtyard house, a cross still carved into its ceiling, a remnant of the hundreds of Christian dwellings that once stood here.