Mamshit is the Nabatean city of Memphis. In the Nabatean period, Mamshit was important because it sat on the route from the Idumean Mountains to the Arava, which passed through Ma`ale Akrabim and continued on to Beersheva or to Hebron and Jerusalem. The city covers ten acres and is the smallest but best restored city in the Negev Desert. The once-luxurious houses have unusual architecture not found in any other Nabatean city.
When trade in Mamshit waned with the Roman occupation, the occupants found another way to make a living: raising hoses. The residents of Mamshit bred the renowned Arabian horse, which brought great wealth to their city. During the Byzantine period Mamshit also received support from the authorities for being a frontier city. When this funding dried up, at the time of Justinian, the city died a natural death.
Before the founding of the State of Israel, Prime Minister to-be David Ben-Gurion saw Mamshit as the capital of the future country, which dovetailed with his dream of settling the Negev Desert.
The reconstructed city gives the visitor a sense of how Mamshit once looked. Entire streets have survived intact, and there are also large groups of Nabatean buildings with open rooms, courtyards, and terraces. The stones are carefully chiseled and the arches that support the ceiling are remarkably well constructed.
Two churches were discovered in Mamshit. The western Nile Church has a mosaic floor with colorful geometric patterns, birds, a fruit basket, and five dedications in Greek (the mosaic is not open to the public). The eastern church has a lectern on small marble pillars, the remnants of which can be seen at the site.
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Restaurant, Place for barbecue