The Dead Sea, April 2012

My frenetic pace of discovery has finally ground to a halt for the last few days on the shores of the Dead Sea. This landlocked salty lake is situated in the Jordan Rift Valley and has long been renowned for its health-giving properties – I have arrived here after a long line of visitors, including Cleopatra. The Dead Sea is one of the “lowest places” on earth at over400 metresbelow sea level which affords higher levels of oxygen and reduced ultraviolet radiation.

Swimming in the Dead Sea is a novel experience – it changes all that you have come to expect about “water”. You are rendered incredibly buoyant in its dense waters and float bobbing like a cork on its surface. The liquid visibly swirls around you like an oil slick and feels greasy and soft to the touch. It is impossible to dive under the waters and you are ejected chest, head and shoulders back above the surface.  One drop of the stuff in your eyes or mouth stings intolerably and is absolutely vile.

In fact the liquid is a mineral soup with extremely concentrated salinity (more than 6 times the ocean).  While the ocean’s salt is 97% sodium chloride, the Dead Sea is made up of more than 50% Magnesium chloride and only about 30% sodium chloride, with significant amounts of other mineral salts including potassium, bromide and sulphates. Soaking in the mineral salt has been shown to have immune altering properties for a range of autoimmune and skin conditions.

The Dead Sea experience is not complete without covering yourself in therapeutic Dead Sea mud – you would believe yourself on another planet when you arrive at the spectacle of black mud covered figures on its shores and bodies seemingly sitting on top of the water surface. The mud is also known to have a range of health benefits and seems to contain high levels of heavy metals such as strontium, selenium and vanadium.

And so ends another journey and adventure for me and all the armchair travellers.  I hope you have enjoyed Jordan – it has been a wonderfully friendly and easy place to travel with many extraordinary surprises. I’ll next be on the road again in July. Until then..

Ma’a salaama.

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