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  • Writer's pictureRaz Tsafrir

Desert Fortresses

Updated: Aug 13, 2023

Starting around the 2nd century BC, The Hasmonean kings of Judea started building fortresses on the eastern front of their empire to protect from foreign enemy. Some of these fortresses had a second objective: as prison, a summer palace for the royal family and a safeguard for the kingdom treasures. Seven fortresses were built along the eastern border of the Judea kingdom with Edom, the Nabataeans and other Arabian tribes starting from Sartaba in the north, Dol, Suk, Horkanya, Michvar all the way south to Masada. King Herod strengthened them and added Kipros, a palace he built over Jericho and named in honor of his mother and Herodion, his grave site. King Herod also rebuilt Masada and added water cisterns, houses, spa and palaces making it his favorite winter palace.

Not much is left here to see after 2000 years (aside of Masada of course) but visiting those ruins especially on sunrise or sunset it a unique experience.

Sartaba fortress, the highest point in the Jordan valley with a full moon rising above it.

Masada and the Roman ramp

The Quarantal monastery, near the Dok fortress, overlooking Jericho.

The lower palace at Masada with original fresco.

Dok fortress on a winter day.

The view from Kipros fortress at sunset. Priceless.

We visit several fortresses in our tours.

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