The Arabah (Tiberian: HāʻĂrāḇā; وادي عربة, Wādī ʻAraba) is a section of the Great Rift Valley lying between the Dead Sea to the north and the Gulf of Aqaba or the Gulf of Eilat to the south. It forms part of the border between Israel to the west and Jordan to the east.
The Arabah is 166 km (103 miles) long from the Gulf of Aqaba to the southern shore of the Dead Sea. Topographically, the region is divided into three sections. From the Gulf of Aqaba northward, the land gradually rises for 77 km (48 miles), reaching a height of 230 m (755 feet) above sea level. From this height at the Dead Sea and Red Sea watershed divide, the land gradually slopes down to a point 15 km south of the Dead Sea. From there, the Arabah drops sharply to meet the Dead Sea, which at 417 m (1373 feet) below sea level is the lowest point on earth.
The Arabah is very hot and dry, and consequently only lightly populated; there are almost no settlements on its Jordanian side and just a few kibbutzim on the Israeli. The oldest kibbutz in the Arabah is Kibbutz Yotvata, founded in 1957. Yotvata was named for an ancient town in the Arabah that is mentioned once in the Bible. Kibbutz Lotan, which is one of Israel's newest kibbutzim, has a bird-watching center.
In ancient times, the Arabah region was more settled than it is today. In Biblical times the area was a center of copper production; King Solomon apparently had mines here. The Arabah was home to the Edomites (Edom was called "Idumea" in Roman times). East of the Arabah was the domain of the Nabateans, the builders of the fabulous city of Petra.
The Arabah is very scenic; there are colorful cliffs and sharp-topped mountains. Israel's Timna Valley Park is notable for its prehistoric rock carvings, some of the oldest copper mines in the world, and a convoluted cliff called King Solomon's pillars. On the Jordanian side is the famous Wadi Rum, where parts of Lawrence of Arabia were filmed.
The governments of Jordan and Israel are promoting development of the region. There is an off-and-on plan to bring water from the Red Sea to the Arabah through a tunnel. Since most of the Arabah is below sea level, the Red Sea water could be desalinated without any net input of energy.
The Israel–Jordan Peace Treaty was signed here on October 26, 1994.
For Publications, see http://wadiaraba.tripod.com/waarpubs.htm