For those Israelis who use Wadi Ara a merely a way to travel on their way to other places like the Galilee, Wadi Ara itself has a lot to offer for weekend day trippers looking for an eco-touring experience. I was there recently. For the eco curious adventurer, Green Prophet has included articles on eco tourism in both Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East, including touring by bike in this region.
For Wadi Ara, and in Umm el Fahem (Mother of Charcoal), however, this area has not been covered, and I could be the first. I was able to take a tour of Umm el Fahem a few days ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find out about the many eco touring possibilities there are in this region, the most notable being the Umm el Fahem Trail Tour that encompasses the city itself, and the surrounding areas.
Mohammad Rabah (right) Marvad Yarok’s Gali Kedar and Sikkuy’s Carl Perkal
“Umm el Fahem has 23 natural springs, and each neighborhood is named after one of these springs,” said local tour guide Mohammad Rabah who is also head of the city’s environmental authority.
One of these springs, Ein al Naby (Spring of the Prophet) is located near the blue domed tomb of a Muslim holy man The Umm el Fahem Trail Tour winds up through several sections of the city, including the “old city” where inhabitants belong to four founding “hamoulas” or clans. “In the lower part of the city, people live together; but here, each clan has its distinct section” Mohammad Rabah said.
The fact that only about 10 of the 23 original springs still have water is clear evidence that over pumping of area ground water, has taken its toll. Three springs from which residents still get water directly from are the Ein El-Mualka, Ein El-Uuasta, and Ein Haled springs.
At the highest point of city, on Mt. Iskander, one can see all the way to Jordan on the East, and to the Mediterranean on the west. The mountain was used as an observation point to watch for invading ships during the period when enemies like the Crusaders were still arriving in this part of the world.
On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way north east to Mt. Hermon.
Entrance to Art Gallery and Heritage Center
Insight into the history and cultural life of Umm el Fahem can be found by visiting the Art Gallery and Heritage Center, located lower down the trail and under the direction of Said Abu Shakra, who first opened it back in 1996 in a small room of 100 sq meters.
The gallery, together with the well researched archive center provides a fascinating history of both the city and the entire Wadi Ara region, going back to the time of the Ottoman Turks.
Abu Shakra, the gallery’s director, believes it is very important to get children interested in art projects, especially those dealing with nature and the environment.
The works of many of these children are on display in a special section on the third floor of the gallery.
Upcoming cultural events in Umm el Fahem include the Ramadan Nights events during Ramadan (August 1-30) and the Sweet Festival in October , which will be coincide with the Jewish Sukkot holiday and will be highlighted with a classical music concert sponsored by the Arthur Rubinstein Concert series and held in the city’s El Waha cultural center.
Buying felafel during Iftar, Ramadan
But the real attraction will be those in which both Arabs and Jews will have a chance to meet each other and get acquainted. More information on these events can be had by accessing the joint Jewish and Arab volunteer tourism organization Marvad Yarok (Green Carpet).
Maybe peaceful co-existence is possible after all.
Read more of eco tourism adventures in Israel and the Middle East: