I chose to highlight the Dead Sea from my visit to the West Bank as a foreigner and (most importantly)
how I viewed The Dead Sea versus how people of that region are more likely to view it.
On my travel to hike the snake trail up to Masada, here was my view of the Dead Sea:
This was purported to be one of Cleopatra‘s favorite vacation spots, and she’s been credited (whether rightly so or not) with the idea of creating beauty spa treatment areas along its banks. Many have purchased mineral baths or minerals to slather on their faces and bodies from the Dead Sea (which, like the Sea of Galilee, north of it, is not a sea at all, but rather a lake).
There are several interesting facts about the Dead Sea, but here are a couple to help explain its name:
Many tributaries empty into the Dead Sea, but none go out of it.
Because of its high mineral content (over 30%), there is no marine life found within it.
Originating in the Jordan Rift Valley, the Dead Sea is listed as the lowest point on Earth, so if you’re wondering how low someone can actually go, well, here’s your answer. (I’m not sure about the PR associated with telling people it’s the probable region of the biblical cities Sodom and Gomorrah, though.)
Before exploring the lowest point on the face of the Earth, I took a hike and explored the surrounding territory on foot, in order to get a higher surrounding view.
Here was my on-foot view of the Dead Sea on the way up, just to give you a slightly different perspective:
By the time I made my way back down, I decided it was time to check off one of the items on my bucket list – to float in the Dead Sea. After all, it has been under consideration as a Natural Wonder of the World.
Even though it was January, because the Dead Sea’s banks mark the lowest elevation on earth – it’s generally sunny, warm and dry there.
So here I am with some other members of our ‘foreign’ crew, floating away in the Dead Sea without any effort (other than what it took to get across the sharp mineral deposits at the bank without cutting our feet too badly. I would suggest planning ahead & bringing water shoes – or reading the rest of this post):
The high mineral content, with its high specific gravity, provides your body with natural buoyancy there. How fun is that?
Of course, there’s always a catch and here’s the part where I support my original thesis of why locals view this “fun” differently than do foreigners when visiting this area.
There’s a specific reason beyond gravity that the Dead Sea may lose its consideration as a natural wonder. As with many other issues in that region, another crops up in consideration of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To quote The Global Post (2010), “In the holy basin, the environment these days is just as unwholesome as the sewage flowing down into the Dead Sea.”
I thought this would be news worth sharing with you on the front end, since our guide waited until we were in the water to explain why he wasn’t joining us there!!! <grin>
Well, the good news is that there are shower facilities at the touristy “beach” areas if you do decide to climb in.
More Dead Sea Facts:
Dead Sea salt is very bitter and wouldn’t be used for table salt (even without that sewage issue).
The mineral content includes calcium, iodine, potassium, saline, and bromide, minerals that all naturally occur in our bodies (as do those sewage components, in fairness).
Egyptians used Dead Sea mud in the mummification process. (Think about that one, too, while you’re slathering mineral salts from there on your face!)
The Dead Sea has also historically been named the Stinky Sea. (Maybe these sewage problems aren’t new, after all.)
The Greeks called it “Lake Asphaltites” due to a strange phenomenon in which asphalt would rise within it.
The Dead Sea is estimated to be 3 million years old.
Further Important Facts about this Post:
I would appreciate not being referred to as “That Stinky Foreign Girl” after you’ve read this post.
For the record, I’ve had many showers since then.
If you’d like to read other posts from the Foreign Weekly Photo Challenge that might not make you respond with an, “Ewww!”, follow this link.