Mamshit National Park
Meet Mamshit National Park
Mamshit National Park contains the remains of a Nabatean city from Roman and Byzantine times, and presents Nabatean architecture in all its glory, against the desert backdrop of the northern Negev hills
Points of interest
- The remains of the Nabatean city, partly restored
- The Mamshit churches
- Nabatean dams on Mamshit Stream
- Desert vegetation
The caravan inns: The ruins of two large complexes outside the city walls, which provided accommodation for the merchants’ caravans.
The city gate: The gate was built in the late Roman period. It was part of the city’s fortifications, and was protected by two watchtowers. The gate and towers are marked on the Madaba map (a mosaic map from the 6th century CE, found in a church in the town of Madaba, Jordan), but was burned down and destroyed in the 7th century CE.
The Wealthy House: A splendid house built on approximately 1000 m². The building has two stories, with rooms surrounding a rectangular courtyard. It includes a guard room, reception hall, chancery, servants’ rooms, residential wing, and more.
The tower: A square building, originally three stories high. A preserved room on the entrance story has arches bearing a ceiling made of stone slabs. It is possible to go up to the second story of the tower, by a flight of stairs.
The Western Church (St Nilus Church): The entrance to the church was through an atrium (a colonnaded courtyard), in the center of which was a covered cistern. The church was built as a basilica – a central nave with two side aisles, with three entrances leading into it from the courtyard. At the end of the nave is an apse, with rooms used for ritual purposes on either side. The nave is paved in mosaic, decorated with inscriptions, geometric designs, and birds. One inscription is a dedication, which translates as: “Lord, save your servant Nilus, who loves Christ, who founded this church, and Lord, protect his household”. It is this inscription that gave the building its name.
Residential house: An example of typical Nabatean construction at Mamshit. The house is attached to the eastern wall of St. Nilus Church, and surrounds a courtyard in which there is a cistern. From the courtyard, a passage leads to the stables. A staircase leads to the second story, and still bears signs of the earthquake that contributed to the destruction of the city, apparently in 363 CE. The building was used as a home in the Byzantine period, as evidenced by the crosses carved in the lintels, although it was partly destroyed in order to make room for the construction of the Western Church. The house has been partly restored.
The Eastern Church (Church of the Saints and Martyrs): This church was built as a basilica and was part of a monastery. Human bones were found inside the church, apparently the bones of the saint who was worshipped here. An impressive flight of stairs leads into the atrium. In the center is a large cistern, and three entrances to the church. A mosaic floor was uncovered in the central nave, with two crosses, evidence of the antiquity of the church, because after 427 CE there was a prohibition against putting crosses on church floors. A large cruciform baptismal basin was found in the church, for baptizing adults, and alongside it, a small, square font for infants. On the eastern side of the church, in the rooms on either side of the apse, were the remains of the reliquary chests in which the bones of the saints were kept, giving the church its present-day name.
The fortress: The ancient fortress of Mamshit was built at the highest point in the city. In 1936, the British mandate forces built a police station for its desert mounted police force, which supervised the movements of Bedouins and Jews in the Negev. It was built on an ancient Nabatean structure. From the roof of the building there is an excellent view of the remains of ancient Mamshit and Mamshit Stream.
The Market: A reconstructed Nabatean street. On either side are rows of rooms that were used as shops (some people think that the street was an army camp). At Sukkot and Pessach, a colorful market is held in and around this street.
Nabato House: The largest house found in Mamshit. The building covers an area of some 2000 m², and has interior courtyards and staircases. The name given to the house expresses the many Nabatean features found in it, including a 16-horse stable, and capitals, some of them carved with human busts, a jar and a bull. The remains of frescoes were found on the walls of one of the rooms, depicting Eros and Psyche – figures from Greek mythology. In another room, a hoard of 10,800 silver coins was found, from the 1st – 3rd centuries CE.
The city reservoir: A large public pool (18 x 10 x 3 m) collected run-off water from the houses and streets. In the excavations a potsherd was found in the pool, with an inscription that translates: “For Flavius Gormos, son of Zacharia, I have completed one of the obligatory works for the pool, 25th of the month of Dios”. It appears that the residents of Mamshit maintained the pool by turn.
Bathhouse: The Mamshit bathhouse is built alongside the reservoir, which was apparently the source of its water. The bathhouse had three main sections: the frigidarium – cold room, tepidarium – warm room, and caldarium – hot room. The pottery pipes built in the walls, through which there was a flow of hot air, can still be seen.
Mamshit Stream: A marked path leaves the entrance gate of the national park and runs down to Mamshit Stream. The inhabitants of ancient Mamshit built a number of dams to collect the water. Today, three of these dams can clearly be seen. The lower dam was renovated during the British mandate, and was used by the camel-mounted police. Further down the stream, a well has been dug.
Mamshit National ParkUseful Information
Entrance to the park closes one hour before cited closing timeSummer hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 17:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 16:00 - 08:00 Winter hours: Sunday–Thursday and Saturday: 16:00 - 08:00 Friday and holiday eves: 15:00 - 08:00 Holiday eves: 13:00 - 08:00 Yom Kippur eve: 13:00 - 08:00
Mamshit National Park is by the road from Dimona to the Dead Sea (Road 25), about 6 km east of Dimona.
Reserving a visit to Mamshit National Park
|Adult in group||₪ 19.00|
|Child in group||₪ 8.00|
|Israeli senior citizen||₪ 11.00|
|Subscription – adult||₪ 38.00|
|Subscription – child||₪ 32.00|
|Group leaders’ room||₪ 450.00|
|Tent camp – student||₪ 60.00|
|Tent camp subscription – adult||₪ 53.00|
|Tent camp subscription – child||₪ 45.00|
|Tent camp – adult||₪ 75.00|
|Tent camp – child||₪ 65.00|