We went to Jordan a few weeks ago. About 18 months ago I thought we might never travel again (and that would have been okay), so to get something of our pre-accident lives back and to be able to do something that we love – particularly an adventure holiday – was very, very special. We visited Jerash, Petra and the Wadi Rum, which were amazing experiences and will no doubt be blogged about imminently, but another thing that we had really wanted to do when we booked this trip was to bathe in the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is weird. It is located in a depression at the lowest place on earth, 400m below sea level. It also has a strange microclimate. Our driver assured us that it would be 10 degC warmer at the Dead Sea coast than the rest of the country and he was right. And it really is dead. At around 35% salinity it can't support life. Any unfortunate fish that happens to swim in there from the river Jordan last but moments. But there is no activity on the water either – you don't see any boats or watersports. The water is so saline it basically screws up machinery. The only thing you can really do there is bathe.
The north end is mainly comprised of resort hotels of varying degrees of poshness, which have private beaches end where you can do all sorts of spa type nonsense (which really isn't us) and the rest is rather beautiful coastline. Apparently Sodom and Gomorroh were located close to this area. That's the West Bank you can see on the distant shore.
We decided to stay at a resort hotel for just one night as we had always wanted to bathe in the Dead Sea. The hotel had its own beach, located about 2 mins drive via a free shuttle bus (if you were lazy) or 10 mins walk from the swimming pools. (Why would you use a swimming pool if your purpose is to bathe in the sea? We really haven't got the hang of this relaxation thing.) We walked.
Dead Sea mud contains all sorts of minerals and is supposed to do wonders for your skin. Like Iceland's Blue Lagoon mud, which really didn't do much for my skin when we bathed there. And, like the Blue Lagoon, you can buy all sorts of beauty products containing miraculous mud at hugely inflated prices to achieve eternal youth. Or something. Still, when in Rome, so we headed down to the beach and caked ourselves in free mud from a bucket by the water's edge before heading into the water.
It is impossible to sink in the Dead Sea. You walk in and keep walking. And then, when the water is about at chest height, you take another step and realise that you should, but can't, touch the sandy floor, yet the water is still at chest height. The easiest way to bathe is simply to float in a sitting position. It's very comfortable. If you want to move around, sculling gently seemed to produce the required propulsion. We didn't take pictures of ourselves reading books or anything (we took the Kindle with us and didn't fancy dropping it in the water or getting it covered in mud) but it would be perfectly possible.
It is also impossible to swim in the Dead Sea. I tried to do breast-stroke but you are so buoyant that your bum kind of flips up pushing your face into the water, which is a really bad idea because if you get any water in your eyes it stings like crazy. You know that feeling when you've been chopping chillies and forget to wash your hands and then brush your eye? That stinging, burning agony? Well, it's 10 times worse if you splash Dead Sea water in your eye. So painful I had to get out of the water and run to the fresh-water showers. Also, when you emerge from the sea you really need to shower off quickly and get all the salt off your skin and bathing suits. C's sunhat was a stiff as a board and encrusted with salt where it had been splashed with the water.
Anyway, to spare you photos of us in swimsuits, caked in mud or not, here are some photos of the salty coastline. It's rather beautiful.
More photos from the trip can be found here.