In the 3rd century BCE, the Nabataean kingdom—located in an area comprising what is now the Sinai Peninsula, northwestern Saudi Arabia, and most of Jordan—was a major conduit for the trade in incense, which was produced in Yemen and transported up the Arabian coast, through Nabataea, and then to the rest of the Middle East. The Incense Route also stretched to Gaza, from where the merchandise could be exported to Europe and North Africa. For many years, archaeologists have sought to find a missing segment of the ancient road; it appears an eighty-six-year-old hiker has solved the mystery. Amanda Borschel-Dan writes:
Over five days, the trailblazing outdoorsman Yehoshua “Shuka” Ravek traversed some 100 kilometers (62 miles) by foot, walking from the ancient Jordanian city of Petra to Avdat in the Israeli Negev. . . . Ravek walked along with a group of some 40 Israelis and, until crossing the border, a handful of Jordanians—and two camels. . . .
Possibly even prior to the 3rd century BCE, and continuing through the 2nd century CE, Nabatean merchants used the Incense Route for their flourishing trade. . . . The Nabatean trail’s route was the best for the topography, and perfectly suited to camels. After the Roman empire conquered the area, the trail was improved upon as Rome needed broader, clearly marked roads for its army’s legions. While using the same course as the Nabateans, the Romans widened the path and marked it every 480 meters with a grouping of milestones. . . .
[T]he newly discovered section of the Incense Route, located northeast of the Ramon Crater, hadn’t been trod upon for centuries, said Ravek. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Near the Negev stronghold of Avdat two sections of the Incense Route are exposed and clearly marked. Back in the early 1960s, a pair of young archaeologists . . . surveyed the area in search of the missing link between these two sections. In the area the pair thought most likely to connect between them, they found nothing.