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Avdat National Park in the Negev encompasses the remains of one of the famed ancient Nabatean cities along the Incense Route, the road over which costly incense, perfumes and spices were brought out of Arabia, across the Negev and to the Mediterranean ports.
The Nabatian city was named after the Nabatean king Oboda (30-9 BCE), who was buried there. Avdat flourished during the reign of King Aretas IV (30 BCE-9 BCE), but was destroyed by marauding Arab tribes in the second half of the first century BCE. Later, the last Nabatean king, Rabbel (70-106 CE), rebuilt Avdat. In 106 CE the Roman Empire took over the region, and Avdat continued to flourish until the seventh-century Arab conquest.
The Nabatean temple on Avdat’s ‘acropolis’ left almost no remains, but its magnificence can be imagined from its restored gateway. The fabulous view from the temple takes in the Avdat highlands and the Even-Ari farm, where Byzantine-era agricultural techniques developed by the Nabateans are reconstructed.
Other attractions include the Roman bathhouse near the visitors center and, on the acropolis, a Roman watchtower with an inscription dating to the late third century CE.
A cave-tomb with 21 burial niches can also be seen, as well as caves that served as combined cisterns, tombs and storerooms. A Byzantine wine-press is still used sometimes to reconstruct ancient wine-production techniques. The churches from the fourth century are another highlight. The visitors center offers a display of antiquities and a short film that showcases the Incense Route and the story of frankincense, myrrh and costly spices.