Eilat and the Negev Sights

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Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater)

Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater) Review

Words simply cannot do this natrual wonder justice; it must be seen to be appreciated. This immense depression is 40 km (25 miles) long, 10 km (6 miles) wide, and at its deepest, measuring 2,400 feet. Because it's a phenomenon known only in this country (there are two others in the Negev), the Hebrew term makhtesh is now accepted usage. By definition, a makhtesh is an erosion valley walled with steep cliffs on all sides and drained by a single watercourse.

You can take a walk (about 1 km, or ½ mile) along the Albert Promenade, which winds east to west along the edge of the crater from the visitor center to the cantilevered observation platform hanging over the rim. This is not the time to forget a camera—the view is overwhelming. The promenade is fashioned from local stone, as is the huge sculpture by Israel Hadani, the back of which faces the town and represents the crater's geological layers.

With the crater as a magnificent backdrop, the Desert Sculpture Park exhibits a far-flung collection of 19 huge contemporary stone sculptures. The park took shape in 1962 with the work of a group of prominent Israeli and foreign sculptors under the direction of Negev artist Ezra Orion. Their idea was to add to the natural stone "sculptures" with geometrical rock formations of similar design. The sculptors brought their chosen rocks and formed their desert works of art with minimal hand shaping. Ibex often wander through. To get there, turn off the main road near the gas station at the sign marked "Ma'ale Noah."

For a look at one of the crater's geological subphenomena, drive into the makhtesh by Jeep to see the Carpentry, a hill of black prismatic rock that appears to be neatly sawed. A path goes up to a wooden walkway, built to protect nature's artwork from travelers' feet. Long ago, the sandstone was probably hardened and slightly warmed by volcanic steam, and the rocks split into prisms.

Updated: 06-25-2013

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