Desert Magic festival draws thousands to Bedouin city

Traditional food, street performances, sights, smells and sounds filled the air as thousands visited the southern Bedouin city of Rahat for the end of Ramadan.

June 5, 2019 08:27
2 minute read.

A Bedouin-Israeli boy holds home-made crafts for sale at the Desert Magic festival in the Negev city of Rahat from a promotional video for the event. (photo credit: screenshot)

Approximately 2,000 visitors came to Rahat, a southern city with a population of almost 70,000 predominantly Bedouin-Israelis for the fourth annual Desert Magic festival held at the end of the month of Ramadan.
Israeli visitors and foreigners enjoyed a traditional iftar break-fast meal with local residents, as the smells and sounds filled the air of the desert Negev city.

"We will continue to promote Bedouin tourism throughout the Negev," stated Moshe Mor-Yosef, Director General of the Negev Development Authority, "because we see the far-reaching effects of Desert Magic that creates ripples throughout Bedouin communities in the Negev."

The authority, which co-sponsored the event, announced the appointment of a special Bedouin coordinator for the city.

This year's events hit a record high for participants who partook in tours of the open-air market, spice and confectionery store, and watched street performances of traditional debka dances.

Shai Dotan, senior director of rural economics and tourism at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, noted that Desert Magic is one of the highest quality tourism events in Israel. "As a result of the project, we have created dozens of new high-quality jobs," he said.  "Naturally, we have promoted women through the initiative with a significant majority of Bedouin women who are currently engaged in tourism in the framework of the project. I am proud that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is part of this important project that changes reality in the Negev," he added.

Bedouins are distinct from the Arab ethnicity, but also practice the Muslim faith and speak Arabic. Bedouins have served as Member of Knesset and have served in high ranking position in the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF Tracker's unit utilizes the Bedouin's historic skills to protect the country.

Rahat was created in 1972 by the Israeli government. Today the city is led by Mayor Talal Alkernawi, and a democratically elected city council.

The New York Times featured the "Ramadan Nights" events, in a feature story last year in which they praised the event, which takes place at the end of the month-long Islamic holiday. The end of the holy month is marked by the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which focuses on the themes of forgiveness, peace, and camaraderie.

A special iftar meal was held last week at the nearby SodaStream factory where many Rahat residents work. The Israeli-based manufactures of home-made carbonated beverage makers hosted over 2,500 people for the traditional Muslim meal and featured guest speaker David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel.

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