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Ashkelon's ancient seaport

In southern Israel, an ancient port city offers spectacular views.

December 30, 2014 | Latest Photo Prev Next
Ashkelon marina sunsetAshkelon marina sunsetPhoto: Roni Ben Ishay / Shutterstock
December 30, 2014 | Latest Photo

Looking at the seaport in Ashkelon is like looking back at thousands of years of history. Humans have lived in this southern Israeli coastal city for over 10,000 years, and for good reason.

A site in the city that was examined by archaeologists hosted more than 100 hearths, tens of thousands of animal bones and an impressive 20,000 flint creations. The archaeologists hypothesized that the site must have been a sort of butcher shop area, with sea salt in sufficient supply to cure and preserve the meats from domestic animals as well as hunted ones. A study abroad program sponsored by Harvard University allows students to get firsthand experience excavating here, and in the past have found artifacts from tools and beads to pottery and weapons.

The city was fortified throughout the following centuries and endured a vast variety of settlers, the remains of which can still be seen and are protected in Ashkelon National Park.

Today, Ashkelon has one of the most impressive marinas on the Mediterranean Sea. This southernmost city hosts international competitions for yacht cruising and offers a plethora of activities for visitors: not just archaeological sites you can tour but also museums, parks, beaches and a brimming nightlife scene. The city hosts several festivals every year to raise awareness of issues like recycling and living an active lifestyle.

The city is also notable for its desalination plant which uses reverse osmosis, the largest of its kind in the word. Israel's Desalination Master Plan aims to produce 750 million cubic meters at the plant by 2020, aiding with water conservation endeavors and also keeping prices low.

The marina can harbor as many as 600 boats and yachts. Behind it, locals and visitors alike stroll the promenade. Though it is often filled with the hustle and bustle of modern coastal life, Ashkelon's sunsets harken back to days of simplistic connection with nature.

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Related Topics: Archaeology, Travel