Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Crater of Stars Festival at Mitzpe Ramon

 A nightly festival of stargazing is taking place this summer in Mitzpe Ramon every Thursday and Friday, from sunset into the night, until August 27th. Its peak will occur in the week of the Perseid meteor shower from August 8-14th.

The summer is surprisingly pleasant at Mitzpe Ramon with a cool breeze in the early morning hours and in the evening. This night festival is an escape from the heat with plenty of activities for the whole family. With new places to stay such as Smart hotels and some good options to eat, including Ultra Israeli and Caucasian restaurant, whey bother to drive all the way to Eilat?!

The Festival

This astronomy event will take place at D-MARS compound at Ramon Crater and will include lectures, observations, 360’ movies, and other events such as light circus performances, exhibitions and more.  D-MARS complex is a field laboratory (one of 10 in the world) situated at Ramon Crater where research missions are performed to accumulate knowledge and experience in preparation for manned flights to Mars. It also serves as an educational facility showing the astronauts habitat and space technologies.  When entering the festival area, visitors receive phone covers to reduce light disturbances (or as called by experts light contamination). The attractions are organized as “stations” each offering a different activity.

It is best to the start with the Sky dome tutorials. With the help of a green laser pointer, the experienced star’s guides of the observatory in nature will lead you on a spectacular trip across the desert sky. Get to know a little about the world of cosmic concepts, the lives of the stars and the vast distances that separate them, as well as our little corner, the solar system.  Remember the big dipper (or the Wagon)? How to find Polaris? What is the Milky way? It is a real joy to recap all this knowledge about our solar system and see it in real time!

The heart of the festival is the telescopes area designed for viewing the solar system with the largest mobile telescope in Israel. Here we could see, through the telescopes, the moon, different stars such as Jupiter, Saturn with its rings (looked like a pita bread to me on the telescope) and other phenomena. You might want to be aware that because the earth is spinning, the sky changes constantly, the guides need to find interesting things and constantly adjust the telescopes.

Scientific lectures for all ages - in the field of astronomy, cosmology, space photography and the future of humanity outside the Earth.

Field Planetarium with 360-degree movie projection. In the evening, the film "STARS", an introductory film for astronomy for the whole family, will be screened on the dome of the Platinum (diameter 7m and height 4m), and in the later hours, a variety of films on contemporary challenges in the world of science will be screened.

A tour of D-MARS the "Habitat" where the astronauts live. Familiarity with space technologies that allow us to explore and reach Mars and their equipment.

Tribute exhibition to renowned star photographer - Philip Bono.

In addition, there are light circus performances, arts and crafts activities for the little ones, a bonfire, and food and drinks services. Make sure you get your ticket in advance, and bring something warm to wear since it gets windy here at night.

Website: Bateva.co.il

Smart Hotel – Even Derech and Ramon Suites Hotel

Even Derech (road stone or milestone in a Hebrew pun) is a road hotel, quite like a motel, but of high quality. Situated on the upper floors of Even Derech mall, it provides free parking and easy access to the nearby attractions. The hotel’s décor has the colors of desert - brown, beige and wood. The lobby has no windows yet it is modern, cool (well air conditioned) and has soft lighting. I really liked the ambience as I entered - very relaxing and calm. The rooms are small, somewhat minimal but their décor is appealing, there’s designers touch in every corner, from the lamps to the wood finish in the bathroom. The rooms are equipped with all amenities such as a TV, mini fridge, safe, free WIFI, rain showers and toiletries.

We stayed in a room with a balcony. In the evening, when the weather cools down, we sat, had coffee and watched the people coming and going to the mall. During the day we could watch the ibex naturally mowing the lawn.

There is no breakfast at Even Derech, only coffee at the lobby. The concept is like a motel. Situated in the mall, on the lower level there are coffee shops such as Aroma, McDonalds, supermarket etc. so there are plenty of options for breakfast.

We had breakfast at Ramon Suites, the other Smart hotel at Mitzpe Ramon located less than a kilometer away. Ramon Suites is a full service hotel. It is an all-suites hotel with studios and small apartments suitable for couples and families. The hotel has a small covered swimming pool, a back yard with mini football, free bikes and is situated a stone throw from the famous cliff promenade “Tayelet Ha’machtesh”.

Breakfast was very good. Ramon Suites has a small dining room with a rich buffet. The food was very tasty and included antipasti, cherry tomatoes, varied cheeses, Shakshouka, and eggs made by order. Fruit buffet, dessert and fresh coffee were included.

Smart Hotels, Tel: 026-59-1111, www.smarthotels.co.il

Ultra Israeli and Caucasian Food

We had lunch at Ultra, a family run restaurant at the Spice Quarter.  Shlomo, the owner, greeted us and took our order. He cooks the food himself and makes sure everyone is comfortable, including the little ones! The restaurant serves grilled meat and Caucasus specialties such as dumplings and Georgian rice.

The prices here are comfortable and the portions are huge! It is enough for two to share one dish, although it is tempting to taste more of this food, so it is best to come in company and share. The meal starts with the house salads, all fresh and homemade. We were three and ordered three mains – grilled boneless chicken thighs that was beautifully served on a large butcher block with flowers made of grilled tomato, pepper, eggplant, and a side of fries. The portion is enough for two! We also had incredible Caucasian rice that was made especially for us, and velvety potato dumplings. It’s a really special restaurant, but opens only during weekdays as it is Kosher.

Ultra Israeli Restaurant, 052-288-9589, https://www.facebook.com/ShelmuDavidov8 Kosher (Mehadrin)

The author was a guest of the sites mentioned in the article.

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