Avdat – Ancient Nabatean City

Avdat – Ancient Nabatean City

Avdat, also known as Ovdat and Obodat, was an ancient Nabatean city on the trade route from Arabia to the Mediterranean ports. This road, called The Incense Route, was crossed by merchants carrying incense, perfume and spices. Today, visitors touring Israel can stop at Avdat National Park on the road that runs between Beer Sheva and Mitzpe Ramon through the Negev desert, some 15 minutes south of Sde Boker.

By viewing the restored gate of the Nabatean temple that once stood in Avdat, visitors can gain an appreciation for how grand their temple must have been. Standing on the grounds of the former temple, look out to the hills around Avdat, and you’ll spot the Even-Ari farm. The Even-Ari farm is known for recreating the agricultural techniques that were used by the Nabateans.

The Nabateans converted to Christianity in the 4th century. Holy Land tours to Israel might be especially interested in exploring the churches that this sect built at Avdat. The North Church dates from the 4th century and the Church of St. Theodore from the 5th century.

In the Visitors’ Center, take in the display of artifacts from the site as well as a short film that tells the story of the Incense Route and the importance of frankincense, myrrh and other expensive spices in ancient times. Near the Visitors’ Center, look for the ruins of the Roman bathhouse. On the acropolis where the temple once stood, you can still make out a late 3rd century inscription on the remains of a Roman watch tower.

Other important sites at Avdat include a burial cave with room for 21 bodies, other caves that were used as cisterns, tombs, storage facilities and a wine press from the Byzantine era.

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