When most people think of a trip to the desert, they imagine barren landscapes and a harsh environment.
Only few realize that the Friendly Negev Desert is also home to some of the top culinary experiences in the middle east.
The most striking thing about the view from the amazing viewpoints of the Friendly Negev Desert, is the absolute barrenness and complete lack of vegetation. That is why a vineyard tucked away in a hidden valley here causes most visitors to pause and blink in disbelief. After they get over the initial shock, they are again taken back by the quality of the wine. It’s hard to believe it but the extremes of desert climate: hot days and cold nights, coupled with ancient agricultural traditions and modern irrigation ingenuity, have taken winemaking in the Friendly Negev Desert to the major league. Tours and tastings are offered all around the region, from Mitzpe Ramon to Nitzana. The French-style Merlos and Cabarnettes are good and distinct, but whatever you do- don’t miss out on the more exotic varietals the area is becoming famous for- Malbec, Barbera and Chenin Blanc.
Nothing pairs with wine better than cheese. An unspoken but well-known rivalry between two adjacent farms along highway 40 has evolved into a full-on war of flavors- and you are the real winners. The Kornemell farm on the northbound side of the road, and the Naot farm on the southbound side have been producing hand crafted goat cheeses since their establishment almost 30 years ago- and these sharp desert cheeses are heavily sought after by foodies all around the country.
The farms and vineyards of the Friendly Negev Desert are rooted in ancient farming traditions, but have, themselves, only been around for a generation. If your desire is for local foods that have continuously sustained the people of the desert for thousands of years, it’s time to pay a visit to one of the villages along the Bedouin tent route. For generations the Bedouins have traveled around the desert, constantly picking up and setting camp wherever grass could be found. Their iconic dishes are a product of this mobility. Libe is ember-baked bread. Made only from flower, water and a handful of locally harvested herbs, this humble loaf requires a flat rock for mixing, and the embers of a small campfire to bake in. Tearing pieces by hand and sinking your teeth into it- the flavor is one of the most memorable you can take away from the desert.
Let the flavors lead you
Many more tasting opportunities are waiting in the Friendly Negev Desert: In the communities of Nitzzana you can find organic tomatoes grown on brackish water, using modern Israeli agricultural technology. In Yerucham you can wash down a plate of Hummus with a pint of locally crafted bee. In Mitzpe Ramon you’ll find two of the best vegan eateries ,in the country. From olive oil to homemade ice-cream, whenever you come to visit us- DO NOT pack your own lunch.