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The Arabah (Arabic: وادي عربة, Wādī ʻAraba), or Arava/ Aravah (Hebrew: הָעֲרָבָה, HaAravah, lit. "desolate and dry area"), as it is known by its respective Arabic and Hebrew names, is a geographic area south of the Dead Sea basin, which forms part of the border between Israel to the west and Jordan to the east.
The old meaning, which was in use up to the early 20th century, covered almost the entire length of what today is called the Jordan Rift Valley, running in a north-south orientation between the southern end of the Sea of Galilee and the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba at Aqaba/ Eilat. This included the Jordan River Valley between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, the Dead Sea itself, and what today is commonly called the Arava Valley. The contemporary use of the term is restricted to this southern section alone.
The Arabah is 166 km (103 mi) in length, from the Gulf of Aqaba to the southern shore of the Dead Sea.
Topographically, the region is divided into three sections. From the Gulf of Aqaba northward, the land gradually rises over a distance of 77 km (48 mi), and reaches a height of 230 m (750 ft) above sea level, which represents the watershed divide between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea. From this crest, the land slopes gently northward over the next 74 km (46 mi) to a point 15 km (9.3 mi) south of the Dead Sea. In the last section, the Arabah drops steeply to the Dead Sea, which is 417 m (1,368 ft) below sea level.
The Arabah is scenic with colorful cliffs and sharp-topped mountains. The southern Arabah is hot and dry and virtually without rain.
In Biblical times, the Arava was a center of copper production; King Solomon is believed to have had mines here based on copper mines dating to his reign. The Arabah, especially its eastern part, was part of the realm of the Edomites (called "Idumeans" during the Roman times). Later the eastern Arabah became the domain of the Nabateans, the builders of the city of Petra.
The Israel–Jordan Peace Treaty was signed in the Arava on October 26, 1994. The governments of Jordan and Israel are promoting development of the region. There is a plan to bring sea water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea through a canal (Red–Dead Seas Canal), which follows along the Arabah. This (long envisioned) project was once an issue of dispute between Jordan and Israel, but it was recently agreed that the project shall be constructed on and by the Jordanian side.
In 2004, the Jordanian administrative district of Wadi Araba had a population of 6,775. Five major tribes comprise eight settlements on the Jordanian side: Al-S'eediyeen (السعيديين), Al-Ihewat (الإحيوات), Al-Ammareen (العمارين), Al-Rashaideh (الرشايدة), and Al-Azazmeh (العزازمة), as well as smaller tribes of the Al-Oseifat (العصيفات), Al-Rawajfeh (الرواجفة), Al-Manaja'h (المناجعة), and Al-Marzaqa (المرزقة), among others. The main economic activities for these Arabah residents revolve around herding sheep, agriculture, handicrafts, and the Jordanian Army.
Timna Valley Park is notable for its prehistoric rock carvings, some of the oldest copper mines in the world, and a convoluted cliff called King Solomon's pillars. On the Jordanian side is the famous Wadi Rum, which is famous among rock climbers, hikers, campers, and lovers of the outdoors. Also in Jordan is the copper mining area of Wadi Feynan, including the site of Khirbat en-Nahas, corresponding to the one from Timna Valley in the west.
Below is a list of Jordanian population clusters in Wadi Araba:
The total population of the Jordanian portion of the region is 103,000, of which 96,000 live in Aqaba.
Below is a list of Israeli localities in the Arava, from north to south.
The population of the Israeli portion is 52,000, of which 47,500 live in Eilat, and just over 5,000 live in 20 small towns north of Eilat, the largest of which is Yotvata, with a population of 610. The Israeli residents of the region are almost entirely Jewish.
השם קדום (דברים א 1 ועוד) ומשמעו אזור שומם ויבש
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