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Most everything can be found at the commercial center, including food, clothing, cosmetics, stationery, banks, a hairdresser, pharmacy, and a photography store. Hiking and sightseeing are the main tourist activities, but even if you've come to Arad's high, dry location for relief from asthma, you should make the effort to see the spare landscape from the far eastern end of Ben-Yair/Moav Street. At the road's end, a path begins, heading out to a modern sculpture on the promontory.

Arad is such a friendly place that it's a good spot to meet area residents willing to participate in activities with tourists. Ask at the tourist office. Evening tip: A 30-minute drive down the road from Arad to Masada takes you to the side of Masada where the Sound and Light Show can be seen -- a great way to spend an evening while based in Arad. You can book a seat and transport at the tourist office.

Many of the hangarlike buildings in the old Industrial Zone, now the Artist's Quarter, have been turned into artists' studios and galleries (some charge small entrance fees). Among the most interesting are Gideon Friedman's sculptural-fused glass creations at the Glass Museum (tel. 08/995-3388) on Sadan Road, and Miri Leibovitch's unusual dolls made of pressed paper at the Doll Museum (tel. 052/239-8918).

Tel Arad, a little more than 6km (4 miles) west of Arad, is a partially reconstructed 5,000-year-old Canaanite town with a 3,000-year-old Israelite fort. If you're with a well-informed guide, this can be a very interesting stop; otherwise, it is a must-see mainly for archaeology buffs. It's open October through March, Sunday to Thursday, from 8am to 4pm; until 5pm the rest of the year, closing an hour earlier, respectively, on Friday and holiday eves. The entrance fee is NIS 12 ($3/£1.50).

Local guide Giora Eldar (tel. 052/397-1774) can take you around in his off-road vehicle on an itinerary that can include rappelling, mountain climbing, and observing the local hyraxes, deer, and vultures (with luck you may even spot a leopard). He can also set you up for your own hikes and take you to and from bike and hiking paths or to visit Bedouin still living in their tents. Dov Ponio (tel. 052/466-6056) is recommended for escorted desert walks and hikes.

Zman Midbar (Time in the Wilderness; tel. 08/995-3108) is a holistic center and spiritual retreat on the edge of the desert off Rte. 31 north of Arad (en route to Masada). It offers opportunities for desert meditation, as well as a dramatic locale for desert walks and personal solitude. Friday afternoons, there is a wonderful kaballat Shabbat (receiving the Sabbath) ceremony open to the public in the retreat's adobe-sand pavilion, built to create special acoustics. For further information on programs and events, go to www.zmanmidbar.net.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.