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Mamshit National Park, or Mampsis, contains the remains of a Nabatean city from Roman and Byzantine times and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the Nabataean period, Mampsis was an important station on Incense Road, running to Hebron and Jerusalem.

The city is the smallest but best restored city in the Negev Desert in Israel.

However, the once-luxurious houses feature unusual architecture not found in any other Nabataean city.

Mamshit was part of the Nabataean Incense Route which stretched in Israel from Shivta through Ramon Crater.

Other ancient Nabatean cities along the route are Nitzana and Avdat.

Mamshit was founded in the second wave of Nabatean settlement in the Negev, after the middle of the 1st century BCE.

The name Mamshit comes from its the Roman name Mampsis, while the Arab name for the city – Kurnub – is apparently Nabatean.

An important economic branch was apparently horse breeding, where they cultivated a new breed of horse, which later came to be known as the Arabian horse,

However, when hippodromes stopped being built and Mamshit’s no longer needed racehorses, the city needed another source of income.

According to certificates that have been found, it is seems that a considerable number of the city’s residents enlisted in the Roman border guard.

The residents were employed in work for the Army, while the nomadic tribes enjoyed a regular stipend.

This delicate balance of power on which the existence of Mamshit was based continued until the time of Emperor Constantine.

Constantine entered into an agreement with the Persians, as a result of which the border system became redundant, and the payments were stopped.

The Mamshit fortifications were burned down around 100 years before the Arab conquest, after which a small settlement existed here during the Early Arab period.

In the 7th century, following the Muslim conquest, the city declined until the point at which it was completely abandoned.

During the British mandate, the British built a police station on the ruins of a Nabatean building for the use of the desert mounted police.

This building still stands.

Visit Mamshit

The best way to get here from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv is by car.

For hours and entrance fees see the Mamshit National Park webpage.

You also may be interest in staying at the near by Nabataean Khan camping grounds.

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