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The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea of Jordan

Stepping off the bus at the Dead Sea the first thing that hits you is the heat. At 418m below sea level and falling, this is lowest spot on earth. So low in fact that it has been said that a helicopter flying 10m above the dead sea is still at a lower altitude than any navy submarine on earth.

The sea is divided between Jordan and Israel, and the Jordanian side is made up of a couple of public swimming spots, usually packed at the weekends, and several 5 star hotel resorts. The resorts have their own stretch of beach, bars, changing rooms, restaurants, swimming pools and the all-important shower. With a salt content of 30% ( 8.5 times as salty as the world’s oceans), without a shower close at hand things can get pretty itchy.

It’s a truly strange experience swimming here, the salt making you bob up and down like deranged buoy. The sea, and the mud on the sea bed are said to be high in minerals and immensely beneficial to ones health and well-being. Dead sea products are now big business in Jordan and there are numerous stores all over the country selling over-priced products promising to help everything from aging to obesity. If you’ve been eating too much falafel during your trip try the slimming mud. According to the label you just slap it on and the weight comes piling off.

Why is the Dead Sea so salty? It was once joined to the rest of the med. About 2 million years ago the land between the rift valley and the Mediterranean rose to such an extent that the area became cut off from the rest of sea, forming a large lake. The water level has gradually evaporated over the eons (and continues to do so to the distress of the Jordanian and Israeli governments) however the salt has not. Leaving it in huge concentrations in a relatively small body of water.

The locals however offer a different explanation. To some, the Dead Sea is situated directly on the site of the biblical villages of Sodom and Gomorrah. When God discovered the villagers were being somewhat well….er….naughty, he destroyed both villages with a deadly rain of fire and brimstone, and very salty water.

Tariq El Kashef

Tariq El Kashef is the author and editor of www.alternativeegypt.com – The Online Egypt Travel Guide