Desert Life

IN THE BEGINNING…

The desert and it goes on…forever

According to the Bible, the Children Of Israel wandered for 40 years in the desert. Nowhere to stop for a coffee or, indeed, a sip of water. The area of the Negev, where TheEye spent a recent somewhat over-action packed holiday, retains its ancient unique characteristics, vast spaces of rocky nothingness, primeval scenery, calm and serene landscape. Paradise, if you crave that sort of life.

Call TheEye a wimp, but trudging through the stoney desert would not have been her activity of choice for a forty year long sabbatical.

Three camels but no Wise Men

Low road or high road, it’s all rocks and sand

The Negev desert is – well – rocky. You drive for miles without seeing anyone, but hidden along the way are settlements of Kibbutz – many with like-minded creatives producing original work. Unlike the original Kibbutz founders, with their idealistic principles of creating a new land, these individuals tired of the competitive rat race of city life,  came to the Negev area during Lockdown, liked the pace and solitude, and decided to stay.

Settlements now attract a diverse crowd.

Small pieces of vegetable in the steel tube sprinkled with olive oil and fresh herbs

One of the most enjoyable visits was to an organic kibbutz — the Six Senses Farm in Elifaz — where the sole gardener grows and tends everything himself: vegetables, fruits and flowers. When we visited the pomelo season was just ending but there were brilliant red peppers, yellow, white and purple corn on the cob, and much much more. People pay a modest entrance charge and are then allowed to pick and eat to their heart’s content. One of Elifaz’s specilities is a sun oven,  something he invented himself. Small pieces of veg and herbs are put in long metal tubes, sprinkled with herbs and olive oil and placed in steel tube, sprinkled with fresh herbs and olive oil.

Solar oven for baking vegetables

The sweetest baby corn – too tender to cook

Paradise in the desert: the smell of lavender and other flowers and herbs

 

SHAHARUT

The hotel TheEye stayed in had commissioned Tzur to make all the metal fittings in the hotel – not just the high profile sculptural variety, candelabras etc, but also door handles, fitments for windows and doors. His commissions help not just to buy new materials, but to support his family.

For a time Tzur ran a desert ‘pub’ – RUST AND FUEL – that opened its doors every few weeks but had to close during Lockdown.

Hand made motor bike made from recycled found pieces of metal.

A metal worker, TZUR is an amazingly talented man. Tzur has been working on his own, using only recycled metals for over 20 years. He even makes his own tools.

NEOT SMADAR

Neot Smadar is a community of artists: painters, jewellers, potters, printers.

For over fifteen years they designed and meticulously created every detail of the elaborate structure that towers high with amazing views.

There is a gift shop selling products created by the resident artists. In  addition to the studios, there is a renowned winery producing and selling wines, some special to the region. Honey is produced locally and goat milk products – cheese, yoghourt, cream and so on – as well as a variety of dates and nuts. TheEye stocked up but had she not been conscious of the limits of her suitcase, she would have increased her shopping. Everything looked so appetising.

Later we visited the cafe to sample their delicious goat milk ice cream.

The architecture looks quite Moorish and the pale pink stone almost melts in the sun

The artists studio.

The Six Senses Hotel merges into the landscape. Stone walls curve around the paths leading to the hotel bedrooms, spa, indoor and outdoor pools, but never intrude. Terraces make the most of the dramatic views. Antique garments and jewellery, part of the owners personal collection we were told, are on the walls.

All the materials – indoors and out – are specially sourced. Woods for vast bureaus and desks come from Thailand but are designed and made locally.

An exciting environment for a hotel

Terrace with views over the desert and Lebanon in sight

Breakfast counter: one of the numerous pieces designed and made locally with wood from Thailand;                                                                                            Note the tower of bagels!

The Negev is not like any other holiday destination, more like a step back into timeless history.

Not spoilt yet, but go before it is.

Where you stay is up to you – there is accommodation to suit all pockets from simple Kibbutz guest houses for a real experience to deluxe spa hotels.

Full moon over the desert lighting the sky – and hotel guests star watching

3 Comments

  1. Felicity Osborne May 24, 2022 at 6:20 am

    So interesting & such wonderful pictures. Thanks for introducing me to this centre of creativity.

  2. Hi Janice,
    This looks amazing!
    I was actually part of the team worked on the pink stone art house in Neot Smadar as part of my army service 😉
    One thing to correct:
    “Terrace with views over the desert and Lebanon in sight”
    You probably mean Jordan or Egypt…. Not Lebanon
    Hope that you are well
    Shay

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