Nahal Prat (nahal: נחל=stream bed) or Wadi Qelt (wadi: وادي=valley) flows from west to east across the northern Judean Desert, from near Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of 28 km, from 770 meters above sea level to where it flows into the Jordan River at 395 m below sea level. Hiking trails follow the stream bed, which has water all year around fed by three springs, En Prat, En Mabu’a and En Qelt. My blog post about Wadi Qelt and the St. George Monastery is one of my most popular so I want to tell you about another destination in the area, the Nahal Prat nature reserve. Take highway 1 from Jerusalem towards the Dead Sea and then a left onto road 437 towards Ramallah. Turn right to the Jewish settlement of Anatot (the Levite city mentioned in Jeremiah 1:1), now called Almon (from Joshua 21:18).
Ruins of the Jewish Iron age village, time of Kings is at the turning, with the 13th century Arab tomb of Sheikh Ibn Taymiyya (תָקִי אל-דין אבו אל-עבאס אחמד בן עבד אל-חלים בן עבד אל סָלאם בן תימיה אל-חָרַאנִי) on the hill. Drive through Almon to the entrance of the reserve and descend the winding road to a parking lot.
I took these photographs of En Prat, the valley formed by the steep limestone cliffs and the pools within the reserve.
The remnants of settlements, monasteries and palaces are scattered along the stream, as are signs of stream-based cultivation. A number of aqueducts were found along the stream, the earliest of which dates to the Hasmonean period, used to channel water to the winter palaces near Jericho. These channels continued to be used through the Roman, Byzantine and early Arab periods. This enabled the growing of fruit trees like fig, pomegranate, date and citrus.
Ruins of a later water-operated flour mill can be seen on the ascent to the Faran Monastery, originally founded by the monk Haritoun in the 3rd century, believed to be the first monastery in the Judean Desert. This area, in the desert and not far from the holy city of Jerusalem, with many natural caves, springs and abandoned Second Temple period fortresses, attracted monks seeking seclusion.
Today, for the same reasons, the area is a popular recreation site to hike, picnic and swim in the natural pools.