Timna Park – Ancient Egyptian copper mines

Timna is an unusual geologic wonder not to be missed especially while visiting Eilat. I heard of Timna for the first time while visiting the Eilat Museum where copper ore mined from Timna are displayed.  Timna is a large geological, nature and history park located about seventeen miles north of Eilat right in the desert. This horseshoe shaped park with strong granite base and soft red and white sandstone rock formations above it is strikingly different from the white chalk and lime stone mountains found else where in Israel. The area is one of the most ancient copper mines, dating to the end of the 5th millennium BCE (about 6000 years ago). An Egyptian temple and rock engraving are located in the site, and the miners’ camp is located nearby. Most of these are dated to the 12th-13th Century BC.

One of the major attraction of Timna park is the famous mushroom rock which is one of the spectacular sand statues formed by the wind erosion over centuries. This monolithic red standstone formation known in geology as hoodoo is surrounded by copper smelting sites discovered in 1959 where one can learn a bit about the ancient copper mining.

Around the area of the mining areas are ruins of the houses of the Egyptian workers. Don’t miss the rock engraved drawings on the rocks around mining holes and tunnels dating back to 12-13th century. Most of the drawings are of animals (Ibex and ostrich, deer) and of hunters but the famous one is “chariots” that got a virtual clone for  better understanding of the people who made it.

In the center of the park is another Egyptian mining center called “Solomon’s pillars“,  a tall red sandstone cliffs carved by wind. This houses an Egyptian mining temple (Shrine of hathor) dated back to 12th – 13th century and also a rock carving of Eyptian King Ramses III. Red rock state park had similar tall wind carved tall red sandstone pillars but not as extensive as King Solomon’s pillars. If your knees support, hike this place to enjoy the views. The area is so vast, that the people look like ants. The lone dry acacia tree near this place looked like a miniature model from the top of these pillars.

Features like hoodoos and natural sandstone arches provide glimpses of the Bryce canyon and arches national parks located at Utah, USA. The 20 odd hiking trails of Timna can be enjoyed best during winter season when the temperatures are pleasant compared to extremely hot summer seasons. Remember to carry several bottles of water while hiking.

Landscape is composed of rock of different colors that reminds us of death valley national park in USA. The natural colored sand from all these different rocks are available at the visitor center that could be used to create a souvenir sand art in a bottle.

Other attractions in the park include pedal boats on the lake, making “King Solomon stamps” and of course enjoying the stunning arid-land vegetation that includes herds of wild ibex that observe the visitors from the cliff tops. Additionally, there is a restaurant on site, a souvenir shop and camping grounds.

Follow me to get a virtual tour of one of its kind in the world – Dead sea, Ein Gedi and Masada in my following blogs.