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Wadi El Qelt


Wadi El Qelt

The Wadi El Qelt valley is a wonderful place for hiking tours, especially in the winter. The valley stretches from the suburbs of Jerusalem in the west to Jericho and Jordan River in the east. All along the beautiful path of the wadi hikers will enjoy the natural view of rocks, caves and the eroded pebbles in the bottom of the valley. Trees and bushes are permanently green forming an oasis in the desert valley, and along the aqueduct.

The main landmark of the valley is the Monastery of St George, Deir al Qilt, which is carved out of the rock and clings to the canyon walls impressively.

Many natural caves and shelters are spread along the wadi and are used by Bedouins and their livestock. Before the end of the wadi, Jericho appears a wide flat plain with a very beautiful natural scene. From the top of the mountains by the valley gorge the Dead Sea and most of the Jordan Valley is visible.

The importance of the wadi commences with Herod who built an aqueduct to supply his winter palace and garden with water during the Roman Period. The structure of the Roman aqueduct is still visible in the valley. The recent water aqueduct used now was built in the Jordanian times along the same line as the Roman one.

The availability of water made the valley one of the known Roman roads. This road was continued in the Byzantine Period and used as a pilgrimage road. Many of the caves and shelters along the wadi were therefore densely populated by monks during the monastic movement in the Byzantine Period and later developed into a monastery.

The Hike:

The hike often starts near Ein Qilt, but can also start either in Jericho, going upwards or at the very beginning at the Wadi near Ein Fawwar.

Starting at Ein Fawwar, take the time and watch this miraculous spring. Every twenty minutes, like clockwork, water spurts out of that spring and collects into a pool. According to a Palestinian legend, two demons living below the spring are engaged in a never-ending battle. When the good demon gets the upper hand, water pours out of the spring. If the bad demon prevails, the flow miraculously slows down. Continue your hike while crossing in a zigzag fashion on either side of the Wadi.

In winter be prepared to walk through almost two-foot high water. In spring you can behold meadows of flowers. After about an hour or so of hiking you approach Ein Qilt. Make sure to stay on the left side of the Wadi that leads up to the cliff above the canyon. The view is tremendous. The path then leads down to Ein Qilt – a perfect place for a longer break. On the northern side of the Wadi there are several caves with some mosaic remains scattered around, indicating an early monastic settlement known locally as Deir Abu Alassi.

From this point on you can follow the aqueduct which was built during the Jordanian rule along the original Roman one which was commissioned by Herod to bring water from Ein Fawwar to his winter palace and garden. The structure of the Roman aqueduct is still visible in the valley. Shortly thereafter you will pass by a few Bedouins who inhabit several houses in the middle of an oasis. Some trees and bushes are permanently green especially along the aqueduct. You will encounter herds of sheep and goats. They enjoy the shadow of the many natural shelters and caves the Wadi provides. Make sure you walk through one of the aqueduct bridges over a gorge. Watch out for the eroded pebbles in the bottom of the valley, including the caves and rocks. The presence of shelters and ruins dating to the Byzantine period indicates the density of monastic life during that period. The closer you get to St. George's monastery the more crosses you see on the other side of the canyon. Make sure you visit the monastery and learn something about its dramatic history. Have some of the colourful fruit drinks the monks offer for free as you enjoy the view from the balcony. Contrary to other Greek Orthodox monasteries,women are allowed to enter this one, provided they cover their legs and arms (the monks could provide for that).

Continuing the hike from this point, it takes little more than an hour to reach Jericho. Slowly the Wadi fades out and you will find yourself in the middle of banana fields. End the hike with a fresh fruit juice at the main square of Jericho.
The Wadi Qilt makes for an amazing hike that takes you through three climatic zones with caves, springs, natural pools, amazing rocks, Bedouins, an aqueduct, an oasis, an ancient monastery and meadows of flowers in spring. At Wadi Qilt culture and nature come together wonderfully.

A word of caution: bring with you at least 4 litres of water, sun protection and good hiking shoes. There is one spot where you need to climb down a 2.5 metre dry waterfall. Don't start later than 7 a.m. in spring and 6 a.m. in summer.

Approximate hiking times (without breaks):
Ein Fawwar to Ein Qilt: about 2 – 2.5 hours
Ein Qilt to St. George’s Monastery: about 2 – 2.5 hours
St. George’s Monastery to Jericho city: about 1.5 hours

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