You can’t visit the Dead Sea and not go IN the Dead Sea, right? Tony and I kept asking that aloud because, frankly, we were not at all enthusiastic about getting in the water.
Every website about the Dead Sea features a litany of warnings:
Don’t shave before you swim!
Any cuts or sores will burn like hell!
The sharp rocks will cut up your feet!
If you get the water in your eyes, you will wish for death!
The salt water will destroy your swimsuit!
Flies will coat your whole body the minute you get in the water!
The best threat? You can’t sink in the Dead Sea, but you can drown if you roll face-down and can’t roll back.
Seriously, we had to talk ourselves into it.
Jetlag sent us to bed at 7:30 p.m. and woke us up at 5:30 a.m., so we lingered over breakfast, toured the resort and scoped out the sea, all before 10. Standing at the dock, we played with the resident cats and chatted with another couple who had enjoyed an early morning dip.
“If we do it now, it can all be over by 10:30,” I said to Tony. We plodded to our room, changed into swimsuits and clambered back down the hill to the waterfront.
Wearing flip-flops, I tentatively stepped off the dock onto large rocks. Rather than trying to walk out further or swim, I simply sat down. My butt didn’t go far, though, and just like that, I was floating on my back. If I filled my lungs with air, I could hold the entire length of my body on the surface or stand upright without touching the bottom and stick out of the water up to my chest. In my haste to get this over with, I hadn’t brought any props. So much for the reading-a-newspaper-in-the-Dead-Sea photo opp. After snapping a few shots of me, Tony climbed into the water, too.
Much to our surprise, the sea felt fantastic, like warm baby oil. We played with our buoyancy, bobbing about and seeing how far we could submerge ourselves. The only way to move around was to lie on our backs and paddle with our arms. I carefully avoided getting the water my eyes or mouth, but Tony intentionally tasted it and said it was 75 million times saltier than he thought it would be and completely disgusting. As we played, I rubbed the black mud off my limbs. We would have stayed in the sea longer, but the air was cool and we couldn’t get far enough underwater to warm up.
We hosed off and then jumped in to the hotel’s heated swimming pool. Weirdly, I expected to float on the surface like I did in the sea. I honestly couldn’t remember what normal buoyancy felt like. When I filled my lungs with air and stood upright without touching the bottom, most of my face remained underwater. I lay on my back, as I did in the sea, and slowly began to sink.
Here are some facts about the Dead Sea I learned on this visit.
(1) It is not a sea at all but rather a saltwater lake 67 kilometers long and 18 kilometers wide, sandwiched between Jordan and Israel.
Image source: environment 360
(2) Water flowing into the Dead Sea was dramatically reduced when countries in the Middle East diverted the Jordan River for drinking water and irrigation in the 1950s. The Dead Sea’s water level drops by a meter every year.
(4) Because the sea sits so low, there’s no outlet. Water can only escape by evaporation, leaving behind salt and minerals. While normal seawater is about 3.5 percent saline, the Dead Sea’s salt content is almost 10 times higher – around 33 percent. That’s why we float; the salinity makes the water denser than our bodies.
(5) The Dead Sea area is sprinkled with sites mentioned in the Bible, so the tourists include many religious pilgrims. Sodom and Gomorrah were here. John the Baptist lived in nearby caves and baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. God showed Moses the promised land from Mt. Nebo, just a short jaunt up the road.
Image source: fineartamerica
(6) Mud and minerals from the Dead Sea have attracted the sick, infirm and cosmetically obsessed since Cleopatra’s time. People flock here for spa treatments, but now you can buy products with Dead Sea mud everywhere, including amazon: