Maktesh Ramon, Israel
“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…” Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince
The drive from Tel Aviv to Mitzpe Ramon was fairly smooth thanks to Waze which was invented in Israel. The majority of it was through the barren Negev Desert.
We checked into our rooms at the beautiful Beresheet Hotel which is located right on the Maktesh (Crater). I had done the research. I walked out on the terrace and stood in awe.(sunrise)
Even knowing about it, the beauty just snuck up on me. The rich, vibrant colors, shapes, layers and textures were beautiful and peaceful. We looked out over the vast expanse and soaked up the natural splendor of the Maktesh.
There are only seven formations in the world like this, with all of them being located in Israel and Egypt. The Makhtesh Ramon is the largest and best known of all.
A maktesh is a geological landform with steep walls of resistant rock surrounding a deep closed valley which is typically drained by a (river).
We wandered around the hotel grounds. Rooms and cottages, all fashioned out of stone, are scattered around the main building that houses the restaurant and spa.
There were two swimming pools, one indoors, and a Turkish hammam at the spa.
Carefully designed to fit in with the desert environment, Beresheet Hotel was built using local materials and designed with a desert theme that includes bright colors and wood crafted furniture.
My two and a half-year old god-daughter is happily exploring with me. “Good life?” I ask ( a question that is usually reserved for when we are eating dessert) “Good life. she replies.
The next day we take a half-day jeep tour and descend into the crater.
Our guide builds a mountain with sand, showing us that the outer layers were composed of hard limestone, while the peak and the bottom layers were soft sandstone. Then he flattens the mountaintop and scoops out a bowl instead. Wind and water have scoured away at the soft sandstone for millions of years.
It is not a crater caused by a meteorite. It is technically a maktesh which is an erosion crater.
I loved the solitude.
There was nothing but us. The Negev Desert just seemed to sprawl endlessly out away from civilization.
Maybe it is the extreme quiet, the vast emptiness and loneliness that comes with being in a wide open space.
I don’t know. But I do know I love the sensation.
Maktesh Ramon is surprisingly colorful inside and we have a plan.
The next day we drive on the two lane road through the crater to gather different colors of sand to make our own sand art.
And by we I mean the women.
There is one place in the maktesh where they allow you to do that. We were on a mission to get every color.
We head to the alpaca farm. It’s about five minutes from the town but we are driving on a small side road through empty desert. It definitely felt longer.
It was not a busy day, the alpacas and llamas were hungry. Even in the middle of the Negev desert, it felt like every animal farm, I had gone to with my kids.
We stop at Jinkys in the center of Mitzpe Ramon for some delicious falafel and hummus.
I am looking for a small industrial park built decades ago to provide work to North Africans and later Russian immigrants. It now houses art galleries and boutiques. The Faran organic cosmetic factory and store is located there and I buy camel soap- a perfect gift from Israel.
We drive back tired and relaxed. Whatever little problems we had before we came, the desert stillness had driven away.