Category Archives: Desert

Nebi Musa

Driving from Jerusalem to Jericho or the Dead Sea there is a road sign with the words “Nebi Musa”, the prophet Moses. As the landscape flashes by outside your window you may be able to make out a low stone building with white domes that appears fleetingly between the hills. To explore further, take the exit and follow the curving road past a Muslim cemetery on the slope in the desert, an interesting location to photograph in black and white or color.

Nebi musa

Nebi Musa cemetery B&W

Nebi Musa cemetery 2 B&W

From this point you can look across the Jordan Valley and see Mount Nebo where according to the last chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended the mountain to view the land of Israel, that he would never enter. According to Jewish tradition Moses died and was buried in an unknown valley in Moab; according to Christian tradition and some Muslim traditions, Moses was buried on the mountain. 

The Nebi Musa site off the Jerusalem-Jericho road goes back to 1269 when the Mamluk sultan Baybars built a small shrine setting a precedent for others. Over the late medieval period (between 1470 and 1480), accommodation for travelers was added next to the shrine. Gradually, the lookout point for Moses’ distant gravesite beyond the Jordan was confused with Moses’ tomb itself, laying the groundwork for the cultic importance of Nebi Musa to Muslims. Around 1820 the Ottoman Turks restored the buildings which had over the previous centuries fallen into a state of dilapidated disrepair.

The Turks promoted a festive pilgrimage to the shrine that goes back to the time of Saladin that coincides on the calendar with the Christian celebration of Easter. This ‘invention of tradition’, as such imaginative constructs are called, made the pageantry of the Nebi Musa pilgrimage a potent symbol of religious as well as political and national identity among Muslims from the outset of the modern period.

Nebi Musa 2

Nebi Musa Judean desert

Nebi Musa

Through My Lens, Textures

For a change, rather than taking photographs of objects, try textures. Here are some close-up photographs that I took focussing on the textures that you can find occurring in nature. Try to guess what the object is in the photograph and where it might have been taken – I’d be interested in your comments. All photos were taken in Israel with a Nikon DSLR with a 18-200mm lens.

Wavy texturePeratzim wavesThis is Nahal Peratzim, at the southern end of the Dead Sea, a great place for a moonlit hike.

Brush texturePeratzim bushAlso Nahal Peratzim, a dry bush at the entrance to the canyon forms the texture and color of an interesting photo.

Dead Sea textureDead SeaThe salt and pebbles firm these textures in the Dead Sea at Ein Boqeq. The dark line of land delineates the sea and the sky.

I also have some colorful photos from the Makhtesh HaKatan, Israel’s smallest erosion crater. For more photographs check out the PHOTOGRAPHY tab on the menu.

Wadi Qelt by Jericho

As you drive from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea you pass close by Wadi Qelt at various points. To access it you can go to the nature reserve below Anatot, St. George Monastery or Herod’s Third Palace at Jericho. The palace was built on both sides of Wadi Qelt which during the winter rains flooded and made the palace appear to be floating on the water. Although Jericho is in AREA A, under the control of the Palestinian Authority and out-of-bounds to most Israelis by Israeli law as a tour guide licensed by Israel’s Ministry of Tourism I am authorized to guide there.

This photo was taken of Wadi Qelt from near the archaeological remains of the palace, looking east as it flows to the Dead Sea. The technical details, shot with a Nikon DSLR camera, ISO 1000, 18mm, F13 at 1/1250 sec.

Aside: I’ve also just published my latest blog post on Times of Israel. Check it out at http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/visit-palestine-with-a-guide/ and please share with your friends.

Wadi Qelt below Herod's 3rd palace

 

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

View from Herodium

Not more than a half hour drive from Jerusalem and you find yourself in an arid, biblical landscape with a view all the way to the Dead Sea. Looking back you can see the ridge of the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem with 3 landmark towers jutting above the horizon, the steeple of the Russian Orthodox Church of the Ascension, the bell tower of Augusta Victoria and the tower on the Hebrew University campus. You can read my first blog post in the Times of Israel about Jerusalem landmarks at http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-landmarks-montefiore-to-calatrava/.

Herodium is one of my favorite archaeological sites and when I guide we focus on the palace/fortress complex built by King Herod in about 20 BCE. But that is not to say that it’s not worth looking up and taking in the incredible view, a great place for taking photographs.

View from Herodium

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The technical details, shot with a Nikon DSLR camera, ISO 200, 31mm, F10 at 1/400 sec.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Hiking the Makhtesh

Even from space Makhtesh Ramon appears as a masterpiece of the spirit of the earth.
(from Space Shuttle Columbia monument)

This week I did a very nice 13 km hike in the Har HaNegev reserve to Har Ramon, the highest mountain in the Negev at 1037 meters above sea level. After the winter rains we saw many plants blooming even though this area is a desert.

DSC_0286

Along the way we passed a number of tumuli, piles of rocks that are ancient tombs, and a 4.6 km stone wall running between the mountains Ramon and Romem estimated to be from the Intermediate Bronze period, more than 4000 years ago. Further along the red trail we reached a lookout on the basalt hills of Karne Ramon below, where a monument has been established to the 7-person crew of the space shuttle Columbia that disintegrated on re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere in 2003. One of the crew was Israeli, Ilan Ramon, who had taken his surname from this area.

From Karne Ramon lookoutFrom there we descended in a winding path to Nahal Ramon at the bottom of the makhtesh. We then joined the green trail through the Canyon of Prisms and ascended the trail out of the makhtesh.

Canyon of Prisms

It’s hard to capture the expansiveness of this “hole” in the earth because the makhtesh is so large. The makhtesh is 40 km long, 2–10 km wide and 500 meters deep, and is shaped like an elongated heart. I took a sequence of overlapping photographs with the intention of stitching them together to try to give you an idea of the view. Click on each of these images to see it full-size.

The image below is made up of 2 photos “stitched” together.Makhtesh Panorama1This image is made up of 3 photos.Makhtesh Panorama2

This image is made up of 4 photos, a pan of 180º, overlooking Karne Ramon at the southern end of the makhtesh.Makhtesh Panorama

Sunset in the Desert

The makhtesh, the Hebrew word for mortar, is the geographic term for an erosion cirque. Unique to the Negev and Sinai deserts, a makhtesh has steep walls of resistant rock (limestone and dolomite) surrounding a deep closed valley that was created when the core of softer rock (in this case colored sandstone)  was eroded and carried away by a stream bed. After a day of exploring we arrived at the colored sands in the Makhtesh HaGadol just around sunset, a perfect time for photographs. (Wish I had had my Nikon DSLR, I only had a Lumix point and shoot).

Colored sand makhtesh 3

Colored sand makhtesh 2

Large Makhtesh sunset

The Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, is in the Judean desert. After a day of climbing the snake path to the top of Masada and exploring the site, we did a hike in the Ein Gedi reserve, including the Dodim cave, the Chalcolithic temple, Tel Goren and the 6th century synagogue. When we went down to the Dead Sea for a float it was just around sunset, a perfect time for photographs.

Dead Sea sunset

Dead Sea sunset 2

Through My Lens, Ein Akev

Here are two photographs taken on an early morning hike, from Sde Boker to Ein Akev, a spring and pool in the desert. Both photos are of the flat plateau you reach after climbing the Divshon Ascent. The photographs were taken with a Nikon D90 DSLR camera with 18-200mm zoom lens. In the first photo, there is a lot of foreground, brush, rocks, sand stretching to the distant horizon. In the second, there is little foreground and a lot of sky. The shift in the horizon line creates a dramatically different effect.

Ein Akev 2

Ein Akev