The citadel was built for protection against marauding nomads, and the fortress was surrounded by a wall with three towers and a gate connecting it with the monastery. A large cistern was cut into the rock in the center of the citadel courtyard, and there was also a small chapel for soldiers garrisoned here. The Byzantine residential quarter was erected on several terraces, and included caves with decorations of carved bulls heads, storage spaces, and a wine press cut into the soft limestone of the hillside. The structures excavated included courtyards and rooms roofed with arches covered over with stone slabs. Excavations of Avdat were started in 1958, and in recent excavations during the 1990s, a long section of a massive stone wall and a gate was found.
At the clever suggestion of Ben Brewer of Israel Food Tours, we sought out the 2000-year old wine press, and there enjoyed our bottle of wine from the Negev's Rota Winery!
|Sculpture at Avdat|
|Elisse, enjoying Avdat|
|Sculpture in Avdat|
|Dan, with out bottle of Rota Vineyards wine, in the 2000 year old wine press!|
|Elisse, enjoying modern Israeli wine in an ancient place...|
|Dan in the ancient wine press, Avdat|
|Modern sculpture & ancient ruins...|
From Avdat we drove through the Makhtesh Ramon - the Ramon Crater; Israel's answer to the Grand Canyon! 500 meters deep, 40 kilometers long, and 10 kilometers at its widest point, it's the largest of the 3 craters of the Negev, & the largest in the world! It is an amazingly beautiful place, and makes you think you're in Montana, or New Mexico, or Arizona- and yes, "Spaghetti Westerns" were filmed here! These craters were not created by meteorites, but are a unique geological phenomenon, and not to be found anywhere else in the world!
|Yes, "Spaghetti Westerns" were filmed here!|
|Petrified forest in the Negev...|
|New Mexico? Arizona? Montana? No- this is Israel!|
|Chillin' out in Mitzpeh Ramon!|
|This made me laugh: 400 kinds of vodka, along with other pain killers, at the Mitzpeh Ramon grocery...|
|Relaxing with a cappuccino at Mitzpeh's internet cafe...|
|The hotel we stayed in in Mitzpeh Ramon|
|I loved this painting on the hotel's elevator door...|
|Gourmet ice creams- & date liquer and other goodies- at a gas station in the desert!|
After driving thru the canyon, we spent the night in Mitzpeh Ramon, and had a surprisingly great dinner in town! And in the morning we headed south for Eilat and the Red Sea!
Next: Biblical animals, Solomon's Mines & Egyptian Temples, and the Red Sea!