Mitzpe Ramon sits on the edge of Makhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater), one of the world's largest craters. The crater walls are layers of different-color sandstone rock beds containing fossils of shells, plants, and trees. The crater floor is covered with heaps of black basalt and beds of multicolored clays. A makhtesh is an erosion cirque walled by steep sliffs and drained by a single watercourse. "Makhtesh" means "mortar" in Hebrew (as in mortar and pestle). Makhteshim are found only in the Negev, where there are five, and the Sinai, where there are two more, although there are similar land forms in Turkmenistan and Iran. The Makhtesh Ramon Nature Reserve is the largest protected area in Israel. Makhtesh Ramon is the largest makhtesh, and is 300m deep, 8km wide, and 40km long. We also photographed Mahtesh HaGadol and Makhtesh HaKatan. There are two smaller makhteshim on Har Harif in the Negev.
Nubian ibexes (Capra nubiana) live in hilly, desert areas. Once rare, but now that they are protected legally, you can see them in the Judean desert and the Negev.
Flowers in the desert.
The Ammonite Wall, part of the southeast crater wall, contains hundreds of fossil ammonites.
Hiking the crater floor. Hercules cargo planes from the nearby airbase fly surprisingly low.
Lunch with the Bedouin.
Our old DEC coworker, Ira Machefsky, now runs Astronomy Israel in Mitzpe Ramon. Ira sets up his telescopes on the desert plateau away from all light pollution.
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Last modified 29 June 2016