10 Unforgettable Bedouin Tourism Experiences in Israel

Young Israelis ride on a camel in the Judean desert. Photo by Nati Shohat/FLASH90

Get to know the Bedouin way of life in the Negev and Galilee through these culture- and hospitality-based tourist spots

If experience-based travel is your thing, you may want to book some time with real people of the settled nomadic tribes of Israel’s North and South. The Bedouin claim to fame is extraordinary hospitality, so whatever adventure you choose is sure to be a cultural highlight of your Israeli journey, especially when set against the backdrop of the gorgeous desert or unimpeded starry night sky.

  1. Kfar Hanokdim
A Bedouin feast served at Kfar Hanokdim. Photo by Joni Gritzner

Located just outside Arad, Kfar HaNokdim is a unique Bedouin-inspired site on a beautiful desert mountain overlook.

Set up as a fully equipped modern camp with private cabins or wooden-floored sukkahs, hot showers and cold filtered drinking water, the site offers educational demonstrations on Bedouin hospitality, evening bonfires, camel rides, desert hiking treks and sunset jeep rides.

View from Kfar Hanokdim. Photo by Joni Gritzner

The site even has its own app to make journeying into the desert an interactive learning experience. Meals are feasts, served in a khan (traditional Bedouin tent) amid tranquil scenic surroundings.

Don’t want to go it alone? The Abraham Hostel’s Like a Bedouin Hiking Tour, which starts at the hostel in Tel Aviv, takes you to Kfar HaNokdim for an organized experience that includes an overnight stay followed by a challenging day-trek to the Dead Sea.

  1. Negev Highland Trail

Here’s where traveling on a shoestring budget can lead to the adventure of a lifetime. The Negev Highland Trail is a marked hiking path stretching from Sde Boker south of Beersheva, all the way down to the Ramon Crater, and is comprised of six installments of four- to eight-hour hikes, each of which conveniently ends at a Bedouin encampment or hostel providing dinner and breakfast.

Thanks to a partnership with the Wild Trails adventure hiking and travel company, accommodations along the trail can now be fully booked in advance, an option well worth considering for non-Hebrew speakers.

  1. Wild Trails Unfiltered Bedouin Experiences
Bonding with Bedouins in the Judean Hills. Photo by Gabi Berger for Finjan Travel

Those interested in sustainable tourism will appreciate the authentic Bedouin cultural experiences offered by this adventure company based out of Arad. Take a behind-the-scenes guided tour of unrecognized (off the grid) Bedouin villages and meet locals, spend the day with Bedouin shepherds in the Judean hills over Hebron, take a coffee ceremony, weaving, or pita workshop, or stay overnight in a Bedouin family’s home and have a feast.

Additionally, “Life in the Desert” jeep tours give travelers an up-close look at the beauty of the untouched desert, while stopping off for Bedouin hospitality in a secluded village before returning to the city of Arad.

  1. Desert Daughter
Mariam Abu Rkeek at Desert Daughter cosmetics and hospitality center in Tel Sheva. Photo: courtesy

The creator of the world’s first Bedouin cosmetics line, Mariam Abu Rkeek has her studio and visitors’ center in the Bedouin town of Tel Sheva, just outside Beersheva.

Aside from selling healing soaps, creams, balms and serums made with traditional Bedouin herbs, spices and camel’s milk, she also hosts guests along with her husband, Naje, out of their home in the unrecognized village of Bir Alhamam. There you will learn all about life in a Bedouin village, as well as the history of the area.

  1. The Joe Alon Center-The Museum of Bedouin Culture

In Lahav Forest in the middle of the northern Negev, among the planted trees of the Jewish National Fund you will find ancient Jewish and Christian ruins, lookouts, bike and hiking paths — and the Joe Alon Center.

This museum of Bedouin heritage and culture is the only one of its kind in the world, and displays the traditional way of nomadic Bedouin life in the past 100 years, including cultural and spiritual-based exhibits and a petting zoo with baby camels and donkeys.

A large Bedouin tent outside the museum provides both hospitality and lodging. For a more low-key experience, guests can sample Bedouin cuisine at the museum’s cafeteria.

  1. Finjan Travel’s Judean Hills Bedouin Trip

Showcasing a part of Israeli culture rarely seen by those not traveling in an organized tour, Israeli adventure travel company Finjan provides day trips, treks and off-the-beaten-path experiences for solo travelers. Bedouin guides lead you to places unseen by many Israelis, including Negev Bedouin encampments and paths hidden deep within the Judean Desert.

A chance to bond with the professional team and get to know their way of life is a highlight, second only to the serene views and absolute quiet of the desert, which can be experienced for a couple of hours up to a few days.

  1. Sfinat HaMidbar (Desert Ship)

A Bedouin khan in Ramat HaNegev with several different options for private overnight accommodations and in a communal tent, Sfinat HaMidbar offers a bountiful Bedouin dinner and breakfast, desert jeep rides, camel treks along scenic paths, and guided night hikes in nearby Nahal Havarim. Desert Ship also can be booked as a unique event destination for a party.

  1. Bedouin Experience in the Galilee
Bonding with Bedouins in the Judean Hills. Photo by Gabi Berger for Finjan Travel

Providing a rare glimpse into the life of Bedouins residing in the northern region of the Galilee, Bedouin Experience in the Galilee provides Bedouin feasts, coffee hospitality, educational workshops on Bedouin foods and local indigenous plants, as well as cultural symbolism and storytelling. Stop off here for a meal, overnight lodging in between area hiking, or for a group event with friends and family.

  1. Han Shayarot Desert Activities and Lodging
Visitors watch a Bedouin coffee ceremony on a Wild Trails tour. Photo by Gilad Sade

An all-around experience, Han Shayarot in Midreshet Ben Gurion just outside of Sde Boker provides Bedouin meals and/or refreshments to travelers, as well as air-conditioned cabins for desert glampers, Bedouin tent sleeping, and a campground.

The site also has camel rides on offer, as well as desert rappelling with trained professionals, jeep rides and rentals, along with the requisite demonstrations of the Bedouin coffee ceremony and hospitality.

  1. Galilee Bedouin Camplodge
Inside a room in the Galilee Bedouin Camplodge. Photo: courtesy

Take part in seasonal activities of the northern Tabash tribe at this lodging and Bedouin experience in the Lower Galilee. Stay in a 15-bed Bedouin tent, a renovated old British train wagon, or a tipi tent, and take part in village activities such as olive picking, sheep herding, or even a wedding celebration. Or just enjoy the village’s quiet setting and surrounding hiking, biking and jeep trails.

By: Jessica Halfin
(Israel 21C)

 

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