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Timna Park Review
Timna Park is a lunar-like desert landscape interspersed with amazing geological shapes and ancient archaeological sites, surrounded by beautifully colored cliffs in a range of shades from sandy beige to rich red and dusky black. The granite Timna Mountains (whose highest peak is 2,550 feet) encompass the park's spectacular collection of rock formations and canyons. Millions of years of erosion have sculpted shapes of amazing beauty, such as the red-hued Solomon's Pillars (sandstone columns created by rare patterns of erosion, not by the biblical king) and the 20-foot-high freestanding Mushroom. The late-afternoon hours provide unusual light for spectators and photographers alike.
People have also left their mark here. South of the pillars are the remains of a small temple built in white sandstone by Egyptians who worked the mines 3,400 years ago, during the Egyptian New Kingdom (the time of Moses); the temple was dedicated to the cow-eared goddess Hathor. This "Lady of the Rock" was the patroness of miners, as you can discover at the multimedia presentation Mines of Time. In the temple, archaeologists have discovered a snake made of copper (nehushtan in Hebrew)—according to Numbers 21:4–9, Moses made a serpent in the wilderness to heal people suffering from snake bites, and the snake remains a symbol of healing to this day. Near the temple, a path and stairway lead up to the observation platform overlooking the valley. Above the platform is a rock-cut inscription whose hieroglyph you can see clearly with the aid of a sighting telescope. It shows Ramses III offering a sacrifice to Hathor. You can also explore a life-size replica of the biblical tabernacle.
When you arrive, ask for the explanatory pamphlet, which shows the driving route in red. Because of the park's size (60 square km [23 square miles]), we suggest driving from sight to sight and exploring each on foot; some of the sights are several kilometers apart. A small building just inside the entrance screens a multimedia video (with a revolving stage and 360-degree screen) detailing humanity's 6,000-year-old relationship with the Timna area, starting with the ancient Egyptians who established the world's oldest-known copper mines here. Take note of the 8,000 stone circles discovered in the park: they once led to mine shafts, one of which you can explore. The bright teal rock known as Eilat stone, a byproduct of copper mining, is today a trademark of Israeli jewelry. Wall panels explain the valley's fascinating geological makeup.
Experienced hikers can pick up a map detailing various serious hikes that take from 7 to 10 hours to complete. They're best done in winter (summer daytime heat exceeds 100 degrees). Watch out for old mine shafts, take adequate water, and be sure to let the staff at the gate know you are going, and when you plan to return. You can also rent bikes and paddleboats near the small lake. Multimedia sunset stargazing tours, accompanied by actors and darbooka-playing musicians, run through July and August.
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