The Dead Sea, and in the distance Israel,
as seen from The Dead Sea Museum.
At the midway point of our trip through Jordan, and on the hottest day (39 degrees C) of the holiday, we arrived at the luxurious Movenpick Dead Sea Resort. It was incredibly timely; I was in desperate need of a plush bed with crisp white cotton sheets and a long refreshing swim. Alex and I joke about how I am a 6 star traveller, and this resort was a solid 6 stars for me.
It was a glorious late afternoon swim. The sea was glassy smooth and the light was golden. The actual temperature of the water was perfect, warm but refreshing.
As we walked towards the beach area, I watched people bobbing effortlessly in the water, and I was overcome with excitement about getting to experience swimming in the Dead Sea for myself. I have long had a fascination with the idea of being unable to sink in this particular body of water. As we approached the rocky shore I said to Alex's Mum, "My brain can't quite comprehend what is about to happen."
We both wore our saltwater sandals into the sea. The shore is very rocky and they were very handy to be able to wear in and out of the water. I gave mine a really good rinse in the shower afterwards given how salty the water is, and they are fine.
The best way I can describe what it feels like is to imagine having pool noodles for limbs. No matter what, if you launch yourself into the sea, you will float to the top. I hooked my arms under my bent legs and sat in the water, floating around watching the sun dip lower and lower over the hills in Israel. Bizarre, and breathtaking. I can confirm, it is impossible to sink.
It's salty! That goes without saying. Don't get the water anywhere near your eyes or mouth. And don't shave in the day or two leading up to swimming, it will sting. But afterwards (even with my sensitive skin turning a very angry but temporary shade of red), once all the salt had been washed off in the shower, it made my skin feel lovely. I spent a small fortune on bringing home Dead Sea beauty products- mud, salts, gels- to try to recreate the restorative spa like feeling I got when we were there. Incidentally, the Dead Sea was one of the very first health resorts, favoured by Herod the Great. The density of minerals in the mud and water must be good for you... maybe.
The Dead Sea is quite narrow, you can see how close Israel is, and the border between the two countries goes straight up the middle. The surface of the water is 420 meters below regular sea level, and the Dead Sea is actually landlocked. It is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world and is 9.6 times more salty than the ocean. The level of salinity makes life for animals and plants near-impossible, hence its name, the dead sea.
Watching the sun set behind Israel was magical. The lights flickered on across the water, and we dried off with smiles on our faces. It was quite an experience. I am not typically a resort holidayer, and we never usually seek out sun and surf, but I would happily spend a few days back at Movenpick on the Dead Sea sleeping late, relaxing in the water and in the spa, and enjoying long buffet dinners as the sun sets.
Earlier that day we had visited Bethany beyond the Jordan to see the baptismal site of Jesus. This was an interesting place, it felt hugely remote and almost desolate. The sun was absolutely beating down on the desert, and we had to walk a fair way into the site in near-forty-degree heat. There are numerous churches of various faiths built on the hills around this stretch of the River Jordan, signalling its importance as a religious site for Christians.
The baptismal site
Israel, taken from the Jordanian side of the river
Interestingly there seemed to be very little military presence at this part of the border. I couldn't see any Israeli soldiers, and on the Jordanian side there was a single soldier. The ropes stretched out on the water were the only physical barrier separating worshippers in Israel from those in Jordan.