Although I’m in a desert, it’s surprisingly cold. This is because of the wind, which has been blowing hard since the moment I set foot on Mitzpe Ramon, a settlement in the middle of the Negev desert.
It blows through my hair and the gaping crater, howling endlessly into the depth and swirling back to me. I’m sitting on a cliff with a flat top, which plummets under my feet into the emptiness of the erosion cirque -the largest in the world.
In front of my eyes sits the opposite edge of the crater, made up of a range of mountains with tops as rounded as camel humps.
The mountains are shrouded in a sandy fog, making the view faded and romantic. The air –sprinkled with infinitesimal golden sparkles- is enlightened from within. The sandy air is on my skin too, it sneaks into my hair and sticks onto my journal –I can hear the creaking under my pen as I write.
The camel humps, whose colours range from plum to red-purple, are at the end of a spectrum of countless shades. They begin from the straw-yellow stone right under my feet and run into the vastness of the crater into mustard-yellow, burnt-orange and dark-brown. The small but substantial clouds dotting the sky are projecting their shadows onto the deep cavity, which brings yet more shades.
I peer over the lip of the crater into its rocky bottom, which is marked by paths so tortuous they look as if they were creek beds. Perhaps they are.
A hawk flies high overhead, circling as smaller birds perch on large rocks. Apart from their tweeting, the desert is silent and deserted.
Suddenly, a missile siren breaks the quiet and several military jeeps begin racing back and forth an army base at the horizon, which could be from a Star Wars movie.
The siren stops and I start walking onto the rocky ground. At first, I focus on quails, spiders and other animals around me that populate the desert. Then I focus on the noise of my steady steps on the stones, the tiny golden sparkles in the air and the countless shades of the ground, until my eyes adjust to the landscape surrounding me and my focus shifts inwards.
I breathe in, I breathe out and I catch my mind rambling that even Jesus spent some time in this very same desert as a meditative trial.
Then I remember that the night before, a local street artist told me a group of artists who had settled here in the 1970s (when the Israeli government offered economic benefits to those who would have moved to Mitzpe Ramon) built a ‘Statue Garden’ on the least beaten side of the crater.
I walk as far as this group of statues and discover my favourite -a circle of coloured swings on which I play while waiting for the sunset.
Suddenly, something is pulling me closer to the vast, empty hole, whose world-primacy largeness is both calming and daunting. It is so wide and deep that I get dizzy even from the security of the visitor centre balcony.
Nevertheless, I walk along the unprotected edge and peer over into the void.
How long can I hold this position?
How further would I dare to lean my body?
I’m braver than I think.
Looking for a place to stay in Mitzpe Ramon?
Check out my review of the Ibex Desert Inn!
PEEK THROUGH || You will find Mitzpe Ramon and the beautiful Negev desert in my travel video “2 weeks in Israel & Palestine… in 2 minutes”
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