Set on a cliff overlooking the Ramon Crater, Metsad Mahmal was a fortified station that monitored the steep ascent up the northern cliffs of the crater. The ascent was part of the the ‘Incense Route’ a 2000 miles long trade route from the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean Sea. The route was developed by the Nabateans and was used also by the Romans. Along the path from Metsad Saharonim to the ascent, there are still a few milestones marking the desert path.
The Incense Route and the Negev
The ‘Incense Route’ was a network of ancient roads that enabled transferring precious spices and perfumes across the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean coast. The full length and exact path of the Incense Route is still not fully known. It began somewhere in Yemen, passed through Mecca, Medina, Petra, and ended in the ports of Gaza and El-Arish. The path from Petra to the Mediterranean coast is better documented. It passed the Aravah and the traversed through the heart of the Negev, including a difficult cross of the Ramon Crater. Today, the route and its related archaeological sites are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.