Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.
An aerial view of the stars and Tourism Ministry glamping tent set up temporarily in the Ramon Crater as part of an international marketing campaign. (Courtesy, Daniel Bear)
The luxuriously designed interior of the glamping tent (Courtesy Daniel Bear)
Israel's Tourism Ministry's temporary glamping tent guest with the their winner, Charline Wolff from Germany, indulging in a spot of stargazing (Courtesy Daniel Bear)
An aerial view of #PopupOasis glamping tent in the Ramon Crater (Courtesy Gili Azgad)
The Ramon Crater has long hosted travelers, going back to the days of spice traders who plied the ancient Incense Route and stayed at Khan Saharonim, a prehistoric stone structure used as a roadside inn.
But it is only now that the geological wonder can boast a glamping tent, a luxuriously appointed structure complete with handwoven rugs, soft sheets, and plush couches.
The tent, called the Pop-Up Oasis Hotel, was put together by Israel’s Tourism Ministry as part of its effort to increase tourist visits to the Negev.
Don’t get excited, though. It was only temporary, and it has already been dismantled.
The luxe interior of the temporary glamping tent set up by Israel’s Tourism Ministry in April 2018 to entice foreign visitors to explore the Negev Desert (Courtesy Daniel Bear)
The ministry set up an international social media competition in March for an all-expenses-paid five-night stay in Israel, including time spent in the glamping tent. Glamping is the incongruous marriage of glamour with camping: “glamping.”
Competition participants were asked to share and comment on the post, and the winning posts were judged on their content and social media reach.
The popup glamping tent hosted journalists and celebrities from Europe and China, as well as four winners from Poland, Spain, Sweden, and Germany, over the course of 14 nights.
One of the winners was Charline Wolff, 24, a vegan biology student from Germany, who was accompanied by her friend and fellow university student, Kassandra Thones.
The two spent time in the Negev Desert, taking jeep rides, hiking, stargazing and touring the expanses of Timna Park. They also visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Wolff’s mother had tagged her daughter when she read about the competition on Facebook. Wolff said she knew little about Israel beyond snorkeling and diving in Eilat and the vegan foods and fun lifestyle in Tel Aviv.
“I hadn’t even realized there was a desert in Israel,” said Wolff. “When I started reading up about the Negev, I felt that there would be no other opportunity for me, as a student, to go to the desert.”
Wolff said she was overwhelmed by the Pop-Up Oasis, their driver and their tour guide who were with them during the five-day stay, the stargazing experience, and the fact that her personal butler made her an “awesome” vegan dinner.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry’s temporary glamping tent guest with the their winner, Charline Wolff from Germany, indulging in a spot of stargazing (Courtesy Daniel Bear)
Glamping Israel, a local company that sets up accommodations and events in secluded spots, created the pop-up oasis. There are specific sites in the crater where camping and glamping are allowed, either on one’s own or through service providers.
According to the ministry, the NIS 2 million (some $564,160) online campaign in Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden and Finland reached over 72 million unique users, with 13,211 people participating in the competition.
In the last three years, the ministry has allocated grants to increase accommodation units in southern Israel.
The ministry is also investing in improving tourist infrastructure in the region particularly for the independent traveler, including attractions, hiking, and biking trails and more.