Ovdat (Avdat or Obodat): is a ruined Nabatean site that was the most important city on the Spice and Incense Routes after Petra. It is one of 5 Nabatean cities in the Holy Land (Memphis, Obodat, Sabato, Rehobot and Halusa as they appear on the Madaba Map) It was founded in the 3rd century BCE, and inhabited successively by Nabateans, Romans, and Byzantines. Avdat was a camping ground for Nabatean caravans travelling along the early Petra–Gaza road in the 3rd – late 2nd C BCE. The city’s original name was changed to Avdat in honor of Nabatean King Obodas I, who, according to tradition, was revered as a deity and was buried there.
A temple (the acropolis) was built on the western edge of the plateau. Recent excavations have shown that the town continued to be inhabited by the Nabateans continuously from the 2nd C BCE until its destruction by an earthquake in the early 7th C CE.
Avdat remained a major prosperous station along the Spice & Incense Route even after the Roman annexation of Nabataea in 106 CE. Like other towns in the Negev, Avdat prospered by adopting agriculture, and the production of wine, as its means of livelihood. Many farms and water channels were built throughout the region in order to collect enough rainwater in winter to support agriculture in the arid zone of the Negev. To date, archaeologists uncovered five wine presses from the Byzantine period at the site.
During the Roman occupation, the army constructed a camp on the northern side of the plateau. Elsewhere at the site, an inscription was found in the ruins of a tower describing the date (293/294 CE) and that one of the builders came from Petra. Around this time a bath house was constructed on the plain below the site.
In the ruins of this ancient site, a Nabatean inscription, in black ink on plaster, was found bearing a blessing of the Nabatean god, Dushara written by a person named Ben-Gadya. This is the latest Nabatean inscription ever found in Israel.
A wall was built around the acropolises, including a large area of man-made caves, some of which were partially inhabited in the Byzantine period. During the Byzantine era, a citadel and a monastery with two churches were built on the acropolis. Saint Theodore’s Church is the most interesting Byzantine relic in Avdat. Marble tombstones inserted in the floor are covered with Greek inscriptions. The Monastery stands next to the church.
The Temple of Oboda sits on the acropolis of the city. The temple was built as a dedication to the deified Nabatean king Obodas II. A Christian chapel and another temple, known as the “western temple”, stand next to it.
Avdat was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in June 2005
By bus, taxi or guided tour.