Shivta- The desert city in the incense route

The four Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta, along with associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes in the Negev Desert, are spread along routes linking them to the Mediterranean end of the incense and spice route. Together they reflect the hugely profitable trade in frankincense and myrrh from south Arabia to the Mediterranean, which flourished from the 3rd century BC until the 2nd century AD. With the vestiges of their sophisticated irrigation systems, urban constructions, forts and caravanserai, they bear witness to the way in which the harsh desert was settled for trade and agriculture.

The impressive ruins of Shivta in the Negev desert date back to the Nabatean, Roman and Byzantine periods. Shivta (Sobota) is one of the largest Nabatean settlements in the Negev, and is a UNESCO world heritage place. Here, in the middle of a dry desert, the ancient builders of the city transformed the desert into an oasis. Although it is located at a remote location - far from the famous Holy Land tourist attractions - it is a unique, well preserved and remarkable city. This desert jewel indeed deserves a special detour, and is highly recommended to witness the amazing accomplishments of its settlers.

The ruins of Shivta are located 43 km southwest of the city of Be’er Sheva, in the middle section of the Negev desert, at a height of 340m above sea level. The area around it is crossed by many dry riverbeds (wadis) that flow into Nahal Lavan, which flows westwards into Wadi el Arish.

The site became a UNESCO World heritage site in 2005, and was listed together the Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit and Avdat, along with Incense route, its associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes in the Negev Desert. Today it is a well preserved national park, and although it is located in a remote site, we highly recommend to visit there and admire how the ancient people turned the desert into an oasis.