Thursday, October 1, 2015

JORDAN AND ISRAEL: THE DEAD SEA

We had split off from our Fun-for-Less Tour, booking our own earlier flight to Amman and hiring a private guide, so that we could cover more territory in Jordan on our first day there than what was on the schedule for the group. Our plan was to reunite with our tour in the evening at our hotel. However, the one thing the larger group did on our day apart that we didn't was go swimming in the Dead Sea, something I've always wanted to do. 

We had seen the Dead Sea from a distance from Masada and as we drove south through the Negev Desert toward the Red Sea:
View of the Dead Sea from Masada
There is something mysterious, almost eerie about the Dead Sea. Maybe it's the color, or perhaps it's the isolation, or it could be its utter barrenness. 

I grew up around another "dead sea," the Great Salt Lake, and I have gone swimming there. It is well known for its high salinity of 5% to 27% (50 to 270 parts per 1,000, depending on the year), which is 2 to 7 times saltier than the ocean. The Dead Sea, however, is almost constantly at about 35% salinity, or 9.6 times as salty as the ocean. I hear this greater salinity makes the water more bouyant than the Great Salt Lake. I guess I'll never know.

However, as the Dead Sea straddles the Israel/Jordan border, and as Mount Nebo is quite close to the Dead Sea, we were able to convince our guide Isam to take us down to the water for a quick toe-dip.
I may not have gone swimming, but I saw the Dead Sea from two different countries, and I did stick my feet in it. That's not too bad.
The Dead Sea is really dead--no plants or birds, just people. In contrast, the Great Salt Lake has a bird sanctuary, marshes, and brine shrimp. The Dead Sea is also 1,407 feet below sea level and 653 feet deep, compared to the Great Salt Lake at 4,200 feet above sea level and 33 feet deep. Even though the surface area of the Dead Sea is only 230 square miles and the surface area of the Great Salt Lake is 1,700 square miles, the Dead Sea contains 27 cubic miles of water, while the Great Salt Lake contains just 4.5 cubic miles of water.

And there is one other big difference: the Great Salt Lake doesn't usually have a camel in its parking lot:
Besides salt, the Dead Sea has 57 different minerals in it that are mined for use in cosmetics. We saw several factories in Israel and Jordan on the shore of the Dead Sea, and since coming home I have purchased some hand cream made in Israel with Dead Sea minerals. It's good stuff.

Ah . . . that feels good:
I'm pretty sure this little dip cured all the eczema I had and ever will have on my feet.
Even Bob got in on the action. You just can't go to this part of the world and not put your feet in the Dead Sea.
That's our guide and our little bus, but who is that guy in the red headwrap? Not our driver.
Here are a few more things our guide Isam told us about the Dead Sea:
* It has the cleanest air in the world. (However, we noticed that it doesn't have the cleanest beaches.) 
* Not only is it the cleanest, but it is also the healthiest air in the world because of the dense oxygen, a result of the extremely low altitude. 
* The sun's UV rays cannot penetrate the air surrounding the Dead Sea.
* All kinds of skin problems can be treated by a dip in the Dead Sea.
* Russians in particular like to come to the Dead Sea for spa treatments.

Maybe someday I'll go back to the Dead Sea for a swim. On the other hand, I didn't have to wash all that salt out of my hair, and I didn't have to fight with saltwater in my eyes. Perhaps a toe-dip was a pretty good alternative after all.


4 comments:

  1. Fascinating comparison between the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake. The Dead Sea also stinks less than the Great Salt Lake, does not have the scummy brine flies and for whatever reason is more pleasant to put your feet in than the Great Salt Lake.

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  2. I have been swimming in both lakes and didn't notice much difference. You didn't miss much. We rinsed off in a nice waterfall at Ein Gedi where David hid from Saul.

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  3. Great Salt Lake needs to get a few camels. They added greatly to the atmosphere.

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  4. These comments are funny--good to get everyone's take on that experience!

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