End of July, beginning of August. The worst time to visit the Middle East because of the heat. And the more lowland area, the worse it gets. So why stay in the mountains when you can visit the lowest point in the world that is the Dead Sea?
The Dead Sea is a place that I love and hate at the same time. And although more arguments are against the Sea, my little love is a kind of masochism and I will keep coming back…
Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth
We take a taxi from Amman. At one point we pass a sign on the road informing that we are equally at sea level. But our road leads down for a long, long time, and a watch with GPS informs that the level is constantly lowering. Lower and lower: -50 meters, -129 meters, -200 meters, -319 meters… When we arrive to our destination and enter the area of the beach. But there are still stairs that lead down to the sea! In the end, we check near the calm surface of the water that we are 427 meters below sea level!
The mirror of the Sea is the lowest point on the surface of the earth, the greatest depression. It measures 304 meters deep, so the bottom is approx. 700 m below sea level! In fact, the Sea is a lake. The Jordan River, that flows into the lake is the biggest. There are several other streams as well, but no river flows out. Despite this, the level of the surface is constantly decreasing (currently at a speed of 1 meter per year), because the water evaporates in this heat all the time.
The healing properties of the Dead Sea
However, the salt does not evaporate along with the water, so the concentration of salinity in the lake increases (an average of 26%: 22% at the surface and 36% at the bottom), and at the shoreline you can see the white line, which is formed by the salt. Because of salinity nothing can live here, apart from some types of bacteria. There are no plants or animals here. If a fish swims into the lake from the Jordan River, it dies in a few minutes. That’s why it is called the Dead Sea.
The only advantage of the Sea are its healing properties – depression and salinity makes the water and air healing for the skin and respiratory system. The air here is 10% richer in oxygen, and a thick ozone layer protects against sunburn. The ancient people perceived these properties and have recommended patients to come here.
Let’s not forget about the famous mud from the Dead Sea – thick, sticky goo, that you must rub on your whole body (note – you will not find it at all bathing areas!!!). The mud is rich in minerals and very good for the skin and hair, and cosmetics with mud and salt from the Dead Sea is a must-have souvenir.
Sodom and Gomorrah
But the area of the lake is more than ugly. However, according to the biblical tradition exactly here were located two cities Sodom and Gomorrah. For the wicked behavior of their inhabitants (sodomies, orgies, zoophilia, etc.), God decided to destroy the cities and people and to save life only fair citizens, among which were Lot. He had to take his wife and daughters and flee from Sodom, but under no circumstances do not look back.
Lot’s wife didn’t obey, looked back and as punishment God turned her into a pillar of salt. Lot with his daughters hid in a cave in the mountains in the south of the Sea. Daughters made their father drunk and… well, slept with him. Two sons were born from this relationship – Moab and Ben-Ammi, ancestors of the Moabites and the Ammonites, that is, the original peoples of Jordan.
Today, in Israel, in the south-western part of the lake is a hill called Sodom. It’s built out of halite, which is a rock salt. You can see there a distinctive pillar separated by the erosion – it is called Lot’s Wife. The cave in which drunken Lot had sex with his daughters is in the mountains by the Sea on the Jordanian side, and according to tradition the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah rest on the bottom of the Sea (it is also believed that ruins of the cities of Numeira and Bab edh-Dhra on the Jordanian coast were Sodom and Gomorrah). The lake because of this biblical parable was also called the Sea of Lot.
Tutorial of the Dead Sea?
The beach is hot and even worse. The air is red-hot, dry, we just can’t stand it. The watch shows the temperature of 46 Celsius degrees… It’s very stuffy and hard to breathe, not even in my beloved Petra was so hot! It would be good though a little cool, but there is no shade here. So we decide to go into the water.
Before entering the beach we saw a large information board, a kind of tutorial on how to use the Dead Sea. Do not run up to the water, do not splash around, do not dive, do not rub your eyes, if some water falls into your eyes – blink, do not swim facedown, do not enter the water after shaving or if you have any wounds or fresh scars… Sounds inviting.
Well, on the legs we have flip flops but it’s uncomfortable to swim, so we take them off. When my feet touch the ground I remind myself that I am generally tough, but my soles of the feet are fragile as hell!
For beauty you must suffer!
Warmed earth burns my feet so much that it hurts. I rush to enter the water, but it turns out that neither the water nor the bottom of the shore are cooler. I wanted to throw myself in the water, just to take away my feet from the bottom, but I know that salty water in the eyes hurts even more. Step by step I’m going deeper to be able to safely lie down on the surface.
The relief does not last long, because only when my body immerse in the water, whole skin begins to itch. The water is so salty that I immediately discover where I have some hidden scratches or sores, because they just begins to burn me with fire. In addition salt makes the water sticky and oily. Interesting experience, but not necessarily pleasant. It is so hot and itchy that I cannot stand more than 15 minutes.
Ok, let’s finish it. It’s time to get relax under the shower and in the swimming pool. Fortunately, on the public beach (paid, what did you expect?) there are showers and swimming pools with fresh, cool water. After rinsing from salt, I feel that my skin and hair is soft and smooth, and this pleasant feeling persists for a few days. That is why it is worth to suffer in this heat and pain.
As I said – I hate the Dead Sea because it is ugly, hot, salty and greasy, and swimming there is not pleasant. On the other hand, the temporary floating on the surface of the water is quite a lot of fun, and skin and hair afterwards is a really soft. Although more arguments are against liking the Dead Sea, I’m ready to suffer for my beauty and will keep coming back whenever the opportunity arises. 😉
Have you been by the Dead Sea? Did you like it? Share your thoughts in the comments box below!
Dead Sea – some practical information
We were on the Amman Beach: the entrance to the beach area with restaurant all-you-can-eat (but not all inclusive, there is no alcohol :P) was 55 dinars for 2 ppl in 2015.
Of course there are free public beaches, but tourists from Europe will feel uncomfortable there (here you can read how I felt broadly in the Middle East), because Muslim women on the beaches cover their whole body. In addition to these beaches there are no showers, and trust me – after leaving the water you really need to rinse off salt, as pain and itching is so irritating.
WARNING!!! Better not to walk the shoreline in forbidden places, because there are holes covered with a thin layer of sand and precipitated salt, which you can fall into. Disappearances of people walking alone here are not fiction, so it is better to stick to designated bathing areas.
July and August are the worst time to visit the Dead Sea, as the temperature in the depression exceeds 40 Celsius degrees. It is much better to visit this region in winter (usually approx. 25 degrees), and finally the fall and spring, when the temperature is high, but still bearable – approx. 30 degrees.
Keep in mind that there in no cheap accommodation. You can stay in Amman or Madaba and take a taxi. Unless you are coming here specifically to a spa or for health reasons, then you have to get over these prices…
Beaches in Israel
Ein Gedi: rocky beach (flip flops!), free of charge, the use of toilets and dressing – 2 NIS; note – the last time I’ve heard, that there are no showers anymore (whyyyyy?!)… so keep lots of bottled water with you! But this is unconfirmed information. If any of you have been there recently, write me in the comments, I’ll be happy to update!
Ein Bokek: sandy beach, with lifeguards, generally much more enjoyable than Ein Gedi; with showers. 😉
Beaches in Jordan
Al-Wadi Resort: entrance fee 25 dinars, are pubs, toilets, showers, and a freshwater pool with slides.
Amman Beach: entrance fee 20 dinars, 14 dinars buffet, toilets, showers, freshwater swimming pools.
O Beach: the cheapest, because only 15 dinars for entrance. I don’t know whether there are showers.