Facts and Data

Official Unesco Page
View photos from OUR PLACE the World Heritage collection

Basis Data:
Unesco World heritage since: 2005
Size of heritage: 6,655 ha
- Buffer zone: 63,868 ha

Longitude: 35,161°
Latitude: 30,541°


The four Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta, along with associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes in the Negev Desert, are spread along routes linking them to the Mediterranean end of the incense and spice route. Together they reflect the hugely profitable trade in frankincense and myrrh from south Arabia to the Mediterranean, which flourished from the 3rd century BC until the 2nd century AD. With the vestiges of their sophisticated irrigation systems, urban constructions, forts and caravanserai, they bear witness to the way in which the harsh desert was settled for trade and agriculture.

Location on Map

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Incense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev

The Incense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in the Negev region of Israel. This ancient trade route played a crucial role in connecting the Mediterranean world with the Arabian Peninsula, facilitating the exchange of goods, ideas, and cultures between different civilizations.


The Incense Route dates back to the 3rd century BCE and was primarily used for the transportation of frankincense and myrrh, highly valued commodities in the ancient world. These aromatic resins were harvested in southern Arabia and transported through the Negev desert to the Mediterranean ports, where they were then shipped to various destinations.

The route was not only a trade route but also a cultural and religious pathway. It served as a conduit for the spread of different religious beliefs, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The cities along the route flourished as centers of commerce and became melting pots of diverse cultures and traditions.

The Nabateans, an ancient Arab civilization, played a significant role in the development and maintenance of the Incense Route. They established a network of cities, fortresses, and caravanserais along the route, providing essential services to the traders and pilgrims. The Nabateans were skilled in water management and created sophisticated irrigation systems, enabling agriculture and settlement in the arid desert.

Current State

Today, the Incense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev is a testament to the rich history and cultural exchange that took place along this ancient trade route. The site encompasses four Nabatean cities: Avdat, Haluza, Mamshit, and Shivta, each with its unique architectural and archaeological features.

Avdat, located on a hilltop, was a major crossroads along the Incense Route. The city's ruins include a well-preserved Roman-style bathhouse, a market street, and a Byzantine church. The remains of ancient agricultural terraces and water systems demonstrate the Nabateans' ingenuity in adapting to the desert environment.

Haluza, situated in the southern Negev, was an important Nabatean city known for its agricultural practices. The ruins of Haluza include a large Byzantine church, residential buildings, and a sophisticated water system that allowed the cultivation of crops in the desert.

Mamshit, another Nabatean city, showcases well-preserved houses, streets, and a marketplace. The city's unique feature is its colorful frescoes, which provide insights into the artistic and cultural life of the Nabateans.

Shivta, the largest of the four cities, is renowned for its well-preserved Byzantine churches, residential buildings, and underground water cisterns. The city's architecture reflects a fusion of Nabatean, Roman, and Byzantine influences.

The Incense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev is not only a remarkable archaeological site but also a living testimony to the resilience and adaptability of ancient civilizations in the face of challenging environmental conditions. It serves as a reminder of the importance of cultural exchange and trade in shaping human history.

Preserving and promoting this UNESCO World Heritage site is crucial to safeguarding our shared cultural heritage and ensuring its appreciation by future generations. Efforts are being made to protect the archaeological remains, improve visitor facilities, and raise awareness about the historical significance of the Incense Route and its desert cities.

Videos from the area

אריות בצופר

Published: December 19, 2008
Length: 08:45 min
Rating: 0 of 5
Author: Assi Nadler

Arayot Shimshit led by Dror, in a 3 days of a desert mountain bike trip. Took place in Zofar sorroundings in the Arava.

סדנת יוגה ומדיטאציה עם לילא ואננדה במואה - 3-5.07.14

Published: May 28, 2014
Length: 20:49 min
Rating: 5 of 5
Author: Lila Ananda

Ishitva Yoga - Hatha&Raja Yoga in Israel, סדנת יוגה ומדיטאציה במואה - מדבר ערבה www.ishitvayoga.com 054-6364727 בית הספר ליוגה וטאי צ'י של...

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