Living the Bedouin way


TOURISM POTENTIAL: (This image and below) Views of the Machtesh Ramon crater near the southern Israeli city of Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev deser
TOURISM POTENTIAL: (This image and below) Views of the Machtesh Ramon crater near the southern Israeli city of Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev deser

NEGEV IN ISRAEL OFFERS LUXURY CAMPING AND DESERT ACTIVITIES ISRAEL is promoting luxury camping trips, Bedouin hospitality and challenging outdoor ac­tivities like dune surfing as the country seeks to bolster tourism to its vast and largely undevel­oped Negev desert region. In addition, a new international airport is rising from the desert floor 18 kilometres (11 miles) from the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat and the neigh­bouring Jordanian port of Aqaba. Tourism in Israel is big business, bringing in $5.8 billion (£4.4bn) in 2017. Arrivals to the country of about eight million citi­zens hit a record 3.6 million last year, the Israeli tourism ministry said. The US, Russia, France, Germany and Britain ac­counted for most of the visitors. The ministry says that it now is seeking to grow the Negev’s share of total Israeli tourist revenue from the present five per cent to 20 per cent within two to three years. It also aims to increase the num­ber of Negev hotel rooms from 2,000 to about 5,000 within six to seven years. Israel is marketing the desert as a unique destina­tion on Europe’s doorstep. “When it’s very cold in Europe, let’s say in De­cember, January and February, we have very mild temperatures in the Negev,” the tourism ministry’s Uri Sharon told journalists on a tour of the sparsely populated region. Activities on offer include hiking, biking, rock climbing, abseiling and dune surfing – akin to snowboarding on sand. The Negev is also home to a geological marvel: the Ramon Crater, the world’s largest erosion crater. Salaam El Wadj has opened up the encamp­ment where he lives with his wife, children and goats to visitors, who can stay in one of the tents and listen to his stories of Bedouin life. “I was born here in the Negev hills,” he tells…

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