|Ship of the desert
Dragot, Judean Desert. I was thought to be utterly irresponsible flying
to Israel to go to the desert in these unruly times. Well, October was as
good as any other month of the year as terrorists and suicide bombers clearly
have other things on their mind than ambushing an intrepid traveller in the
labyrinth of wadis and canyons of the Judean Desert. The
International Centre for Desert
Tourism at Metzoke Dragot is perched on a cliff overlooking the Dead
Sea. It’s a bleak place, clean but primitive, but the surrounding countryside
of the nature reserve holds ample rewards. Wadi Darga, especially
the lower part, can only be manoeuvred with ropes; it’s a killer of a hike
and should be left to serious climbers. Its rocky facade exudes unquestionable
authority and dignity, yet is somewhat whimsical, with echoes going round
in circles, pursued by hooded crows riding the thermal currents. I opted
for Wadi Mashesh, more gentle but no mean feat either. Irons are hewn
into the rock to help you with the most difficult passages winding down the
slopes to the riverbed. Black and orange Tristram grackles swooped
past in search of insects, rock doves cooed and the hyrex, shafan sela’im
in Hebrew, chattered excitedly despite the intense heat. A bumble bee, the
size of a quail’s egg, buzzed past in small concentric circles.
The shiny dark green buds of the wild
caper bushes were about to burst open, with here and there a tiny pale petal
already peaking through. The bushes in the shadows don’t have the whitish-grey
thin layer that protects their leaves from the sun as have the ones in more
exposed places. The contrast in colour is striking: sheltered bushes have
a vibrant green colour whereas their cousins in the sun display shades of
hazy blue. White broom, the roots of which the Bedouins used to make
charcoal, nestled in crevices and in between the rubble at the bottom of
the wadi, and salty bushes were in abundance.
I picked a few leaves of achillea
and desert star, kokhav hamidbar, to flavour my tea which I enjoyed
with a light lunch of nuts and dried apricots, listening to the whooshing
sounds of the ruakh, the wind, before climbing up to the edge of the
canyon and the dirt road leading uphill back to the centre. The afternoon
sun sat low over the hills and the world seemed a deceptively tranquil and
Text by Marion Dill. Dancing with camels.
Editor, writer, free spirit, but at home where the wind and the ravens meet.
When not traveling, Dill divides her time between Germany and London.
Photo credit: M. Kaplan-Green.