Beer Sheva is the capital of the Negev region of Israel, a desert city that serves as the gateway to this region. Beer Sheva is generally not on the agendas of many tourists to Israel, and is therefore somewhat of an off the beaten track destination. There are a number of interesting and unique things to do in Beer Sheva, an ancient city dating from Biblical times, including the old Turkish town, which is the only planned Ottoman city in the region, the Turkish railway station, and the Bedouin market, as well as nearby Tel Beer Sheba which is the archaeological remnants of the ancient city and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Visiting Beer Sheva
Restoration of a Turkish Mosque in Beer Sheva. Photo courtesy of David Shankbone on Flickr
The Old Turkish Town of Beer Sheva is the only city built by the Ottomans during their rule over the land, and today contains interesting remnants of this period including the Governor’s House which was the home and office of the first governor of the city, built in 1906 and today home to the Negev Museum of Art. The Old City also houses the city’s first mosque also built in 1906, the Turkish railway station built during the First World War, and many more buildings and streets which set the scene of life in the city and many other cities under Ottoman Rule.
The Bedouin market is a famous attraction in Beer Sheva, a weekly occassion taking place on Thursdays since 1905 in which Bedouins from the neighboring villages come and sell various authentic Bedouin wares such as copper products, glassware, jewelry, weaved crafts such as rugs, and more, as well as modern stalls selling clothing, footwear, and food, as you would find in any other market. The Bedouin market is relatively unique, a vibrant and colorful marketplace which is interesting to visit if you are in the city.
On the outskirts of Beer Sheva is the Israel Air Force Museum, worth visiting if you’re interested in aviation.
Tel Beer Sheva. Photo courtesy of Ian Scott on Flickr
Tel Beer Sheba, is located about 5km east of the modern city and is home to the ruins of the ancient, Biblical city that was here. Now designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tel Beer Sheba contains the ruins of a walled city from the Israelite monarchic period, as well as relics from the Roman Period, when the settlement sprawled to the area of modern Beer Sheva.
Beer Sheva is a city seeing somewhat of a touristic revival, and new initiatives are springing up across the city. These include the B7 Art Experience which provides educational tours and workshops for all kinds of groups wanting to experience the city, from outside the Old Mosque, in the Old Turkish City. Also, the city has, since the establishment and growth of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev seen a cultural revival, and restaurants, bars and nightclubs have sprung up across the city to cater for the large and vibrant student population who call this city home.
Beer Sheva is a gateway unto a land of nature and wonder – the Negev Desert is full of amazing things to do. Check out our other articles about things to do in the Negev for some of the many ideas.