Judean Desert

Herodium or Herodion

…is a truncated cone-shaped hill, located 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) south of Jerusalem and 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) south-east of Bethlehem, in the Judean desert in the West Bank. Herod the Great built a fortress, a palace and a small town in Herodium, between 23 and 15 BCE, and is believed to have been buried there.Herodium is 758 meters (2,487 ft) above sea level, the highest peak in the Judean desert.

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The first few pictures in this set are from the main section of the hike through Wadi Qelt. The last few pictures are from the small (emphasis on small) village we happened upon as the sunset approached and we had to change our route to get back to the road before dark.

This village was at the end of a one mile long dirt road that went from the bottom of the wadi up to the very peak of the mountains. It was a gruelling walk to do at the end of a long day, but fortunately we still had ample water and the views of the area were more than worth it. One of the people I was with has a digital SLR camera, so I will post some of his pictures from this last section of our hike when I get them.

On that note, I could not have had better hiking companions yesterday. They didn’t complain about our delay leaving Jerusalem (we walked 5km throughout Jerusalem before we even stepped on the bus to Mitzpe Yericho).

Whereas other people warned me that the bus dropped us off 5km from the Monastery and that it was better to have a car, my friends thoroughly enjoyed the walk along the road and kept saying how nice they thought the scenery was. They were right! No way you could properly appreciate the surroundings in a car moving at 30-50km/hour.

We got lost a couple times along the trail. No one got upset. No one blamed anyone (i.e. me) for misreading the map. It was stoicism at its best: you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond.

One time we walked the wrong way for 100-200 metres into an area occupied by a bedouin family. The mom and her kids were friendly, but their dogs were anything but! They chased us all the way down the wadi back to the trail where we walked halfway up the cliff where the trail went. On multiple occasions I was ready to pick up a stone and whip it at the dogs if they got any closer to us. Zero complaints from any of my friends when this happened.

When sunset was an hour away and we realized we would not finish our hike as planned, we simply agreed to change our route so that we would be walking down a dirt road instead of a hiking trail if it got dark before we finished. No one got stressed or upset at those of us that delayed the group (although on one occasion I may have encouraged someone who literally stopped to smell the flowers to hurry up…). We had taken a 30 minute detour to climb up the side of the wadi to another trail, and no one regretted it.

In the end, we were treated to magnificent views from the dirt road, and we made it back to our starting point just as the sun set. We only had to wait 20 minutes for the bus back to Jerusalem, so it all worked out quite well in the end!

So, in summary, if you ever get the chance to go hiking with a group of German art students who just finished putting on a week-long exhibition, I would encourage you to do so :)

Herodium, Judean Desert, West Bank

Herodium was a fortress built by Herod the Great from 23 to 15 BC in memory of his victory over Antigonus in 40 BC. He was considered one of the greatest builders of his time—his palace was built on the edge of the desert and was situated atop an artificial hill, geography did not daunt him. He died at his winter palace in Jericho, however according to his wishes, he is believed to have been buried at Herodium. The city was conquered and destroyed by the Romans in 71 AD.

This is the only site that was named after King Herod the Great. It was known by the Crusaders as the “Mountain of Franks”. Arab locals call it Jabal al-Fourdis (“Mountain of Paradise”).

The ruins are located in the Judean desert, 6 km to the south east of Bethlehem.

More about Herod the Great

More about Herodium