Floating in the Dead Sea

This post is part of my Israel travel series Scrolls from the Holy Land: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Dead sea is one of the most fascinating places on Earth and visit to Israel is incomplete without a dip in the dead sea.

Dead Sea. Jordan is on the other side.

Where is it?
Dead sea is a salt lake between Israel and the West Bank to the west, and Jordan to the east. It is 420 metres below sea level (shores) and 330 m deep, making it the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River. The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea, although there are small perennial springs under and around the Dead Sea, creating pools and quicksand pits along the edges. There are no outlet streams.

To go to the Dead sea from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, the route passes through west bank territories and once can see the checkpost and the (in)famous wall. It is a part of the the Negev desert.

Why the name ‘dead’?
With 31.5% salt content, Dead sea is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment where aquatic life (fish, plants etc) cannot flourish. Hence the name ‘dead.’

It’s fun to even write about it. You cannot drown in the dead sea.
But how is it possible? How can one not sink in the water?

🙂 This is something everyone has to experience themselves. I can only try to describe the strange feeling. Due to such high salinity, water of the dead sea is so dense that we can easily float in it. I’m not sure if an elephant would.

So when I first stepped on the water, it felt strange. It felt like something heavy, like oil, but definitely not water. I dove into the water and surprise surprise there was not a big splash or anything but instead a little glopish sound. Then I was simply floating in the water. The water continuously tries to push you. If you simply release yourself, your ass and torso would sink (due to the weight) while other body parts would be suspended on the surface. Very unreal feeling! So it’s really not possible to ‘swim’ in the sea per se but you can float, and simply hang out, read a newspaper or something. Make sure you don’t swallow the water because it is deadly. It was a great feeling to float on water, something almost as rare as flying in zero gravity. I even thought of performing the miracle of walking on water 😛

And oh, yes I went to this place twice 🙂

Four hundred meters under the sea. Very cool!

Natural resources:
Many people believe that the mud of the dead sea has curing properties. There are several therapy centers around the coastline that do mud therapy, salt water therapy and such. Due to below sea level conditions, the sun is powerful and atmospheric pressure is also higher.

High salinity and minimum turbulence makes the composition of the water very interesting. The composition varies slightly at different test points. Unlike sea water which is mostly (97%) Sodium Chloride, this water has lots of other anhydrous chlorides such as Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium while Sodium Chloride is only 30%. [Oh watch the Chemical Engineer speak!]

The sea is a source of various chemicals and minerals that are used for the manufacture of beauty products. It was one of the world’s first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers.

How can this place not have any religious connotations? Comeon, its Israel!

The human history of the Dead Sea goes all the way back to remote antiquity. Some cities mentioned in the Book of Genesis which were said to have been destroyed in the time of Abraham, were on its shores. A specific prophecy over the dead sea that the water will “.. be healed and made fresh…”

In Islamic tradition, the Dead Sea was about the land in which the Prophet Lut lived. The people of the towns and cities were wicked for their acts of homosexuality (cough cough), raping men, robbery and murder and had therefore been given a punishment for such deeds. The punishment arrived when angels in the form of beautiful men were sent down by God as guests for Lut to host. When Lut’s people heard of the men, they rushed to Lut’s house to misbehave and rape the men. This was their final test which they failed so the angels raised the land where the prophet’s people lived, tipped it upside down and threw it back on earth, causing the ground near the impact to cave in. Thus, the lowest land on Earth was formed because of this punishment.

This post is part of my Israel travel series Scrolls from the Holy Land: Travel stories | Photo gallery