Feel alive in the Dead Sea

After more than two weeks in Egypt, Jordan is a breath of fresh air. Literally.

There’s no obvious pollution. Traffic chaos isn’t evident. The pace is slower. It’s all rather splendid except it’s not a bargain hunter’s dreamland. Our Aussie dollar is half the value of the Jordanian Dinar. So why are we here? To float in the Dead Sea of course.

Sounds rather ludicrous that you’d want to head to a saltwater lake that’s dead but it’s on the bucket list for many travellers, including Monty and Me.

In the heart of the Middle East, the Dead Sea is bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel to the west. The deepest hypersaline lake in the world, it is like no other on the planet. Our guide told us if you dropped a metal tank in the Dead Sea, within two to three years, severe corrosion would destroy it: “It will simply ‘melt’ away.”

Our destination is about one hour’s drive from Amman via the highway. We’re staying one night at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel which has its own private beach. Genius. After all, when you don’t know what you’re in for, you need assurance that you can sprint up to your hotel room if needed. Certainly, a preferred option to standing in line for a cold shower, followed by a soggy wet drive back to your hotel. Not my idea of fun.

It’s 4pm. Our hotel looks splendid. While checking in, we’re informed “access to the Dead Sea’s closed”. In raised, almost hysterical voices, we argue that we’ve travelled all this way from Australia to swim in the Dead Sea. Surely, we can just have a quick dip? Wait a minute. Language confusion.

“No, you misunderstood. Yes, you can swim. But you must get out of the water at sunset” was the cool reply.

Take note folks. If you’re going to stay at a hotel with its own beach, get there early. The sun sets in the wink of an eye. One minute it’s there, the next it has dipped below the horizon.

So, off we charge. We reach our spartan room, strip off, throw on our swimmers and race down to the beach. And that’s where the real fun begins.

Our first sight is awesome. The water is like a blanket of mercury shimmering in the fading sunlight. It’s almost spiritual. A place where people come to be healed by the Dead Sea and its nutrient-rich black mud.

Before entering the water, it’s ritual to mud-up. A square concrete container sitting on a pedestal holds the therapeutic black mud which we are about to spread on our bodies.

I plunge my hand deep into the mud and grab a handful of the thick oozy-looking stuff. I slap layers of mud on Monty. He’s covered from neck to toes. My turn now. He starts to lather my legs until I realise a hand is needed to take photos, so my mud pack starts at my feet and stops leaving one arm and face completely untouched. The mud is, allegedly, mineral-rich, power-packed with natural goodness and assists with skin disorders including eczema, psoriasis, and acne.

Camouflaged warriors, we stride across the gritty sand to the water’s edge. Slowly we creep into the depths ready to tackle any obstacle in our path. The shore is covered in pebbles which slowly graduate to larger rocks, and before we know it, we’re buoyant. It’s only 10 or so metres from shore that your feet leave the sandy bed and you are afloat.

It’s extraordinary. Marvellous. Weight-lifting. Surreal. And the water is beyond salty and feels oily, but not slimy. It’s a weird feeling…no need to ‘leg cycle’ to prevent sinking. You can’t sink. No matter how hard you try. You’re completely supported by this salty, silky liquid. Imagine you’re walking on air but in water. So strange to explain. In fact, it’s impossible. You just have to experience it for yourself.

I hasten to add too that you can swim in the Dead Sea. Backstroke, or if need be, breaststroke but with head poised high above the water line. Do not, under any circumstance, dip your face in the water. I accidentally flicked a little spray into my eye and it was most unpleasant. It’s nearly 10 times saltier than seawater. I’ve discovered a new level of ‘stinging’ but I counter my concern knowing that the Dead Sea water is rich in chloride salts of magnesium, sodium, potassium and bromide.

There are lifesavers aplenty at our hotel’s private beach. I’m still not sure why the beach closes at sunset; I have heard it’s to keep staff costs down. Whatever the reason, don’t leave your swim too late in the day to avoid disappointment. The rules are rules. There are no exceptions regardless of how far you have travelled. It’s everyone out at sunset.

October seems to be the perfect time to go. Not too hot. Not cold. The water’s temperature is delightfully tepid. Sunrise and sunset are sublime in this part of the world. And the tourist factor is almost nil.

So what’s the verdict? It’s awesome. Totally awesome. You find your inner child and really come alive in the Dead Sea. Best ever time of our lives.

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