Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Arabah (Hebrew Nahal 'Arava; Arabic Wadi Arabah) is the section of the Great Rift Valley lying between the Dead Sea in the North and the Gulf of Aqaba/Gulf of Elat in the South. It forms part of the border between Israel to the West and Jordan to the East.
The Arava/Arabah is 103 miles long from the Gulf of Elat/Aqaba to the southern end of the Dead Sea. It is divided into three sections. The first part is 48 miles long and extends north from Elat/Aqaba and reaches 755' above sea level. The second, middle portion slopes down from the height of the Dead Sea/Red Sea watershed to about nine miles north of the Dead Sea. From there, the Arava/Aqaba drops sharply 460' to the Dead Sea.
The Arava/Arabah is very dry and hot. There are almost no settlements on its Jordanian side and just a few kibbutzim on the Israeli. The oldest kibbutz in the Arava is Kibbutz Yotvata, founded in 1957. Yotvata was named for an ancient town in the Arava that is mentioned once in the Bible. Kibbutz Lotan , which is one of Israel's newest kibbutzim, has a bird-watching center.
In ancient times the Arabah/Arava region was more settled than it is today. In Biblical times the area was a center of copper production; King Solomon apparently had mines here. The Arava was home to the Edomites (Edom was called "Idumea" in Roman times). East of the Arava was the domain of the Nabateans, the builders of the fabulous city of Petra.
The Arava/Arabah is very scenic; there are colorful cliffs and sharp-topped mountains. One notable Israeli national park is Timna National Park. Timna has prehistoric rock carvings, some of the oldest copper mines in the world, and a convoluted cliff called King Solomon's pillars. On the Jordanian side is the famous Wadi Rum, where parts of Lawrence of Arabia were filmed.
The governments of Jordan and Israel are promoting development of the region. There is an off-and-on plan to bring water from the Red Sea to the Arava/Arabah through a tunnel. Since most of the Arava/Arabah is below sea level, the Red Sea water could be desalted without any net input of energy.
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