She insisted on doing the sunrise climb, and so we left our hotel in Ein Boqeq a little after 5 a.m. for the half hour drive north to Masada. The beauty of an early morning undertaking is that hardly anybody is around, even at major tourist attractions like Masada. Only a few other cars were in the parking lot, and the snake path that winds up the 1,000 feet to the Masada plateau was deserted.
The badlands along the Dead Sea in the haze of early morning.
We made it to the top - quiet and empty.
Strolling about ancient ruins with the Judean mountains all around.
Model of what Masada looked like in its glory under King Herod.
My favorite spot at Masada is the ruins of the North Palace. It is such a testament to King Herod's mania to build a luxurious palace with bath houses and pools on a terrace perched on the rock face of the northern cliff overlooking this desolate vastness of the Dead Sea Valley. The Masada fortress never served a strategic purpose, nor did it guard an old trading route or an important geographic feature. Herod simply built it because he could. Later, in 70 A.D., it famously served as the stronghold of the last stand of Jewish rebels against the mighty Roman Empire.
Ah! The vistas!
We also ventured under the surface of the plateau into one of its giant cisterns.
When the golden light of morning had dissipated, we took the cable car back down, which reminded me of riding cable cars in the Alps as a kid. Very different scenario here, though. It's eerie to see the remnants of the Roman siege forts all around Masada; it makes it seem as if that war hadn't happened all that long ago (almost 2,000 years, in fact).