We arrived at our resort on the Dead Sea around noon, checked in and then promptly changed in to our swimming costumes bound for the Dead Sea which was a very steep and long walk from our resort even though our resort was technically located on the Dead Sea shoreline.
Below is a photo of the view from our room of the pools, the Dead Sea and the Jerusalem Mountains in Israel. The hotel was sparsely occupied, ala Swine Flu 2009 in Cancun, Mexico, just how we like it.
One thing you won’t see scanning the horizon across the Dead Sea are resorts on the Israeli side of the sea. This is because there is a rule/law whereby all Jordanian Dead Sea resorts reside at the north end of the Dead Sea and all Israeli resorts reside at the south end of the Dead Sea.
The border between Israel and Jordan runs down the middle of the Dead Sea and since it’s a body of water, the border cannot be enforced as it would on land. I don’t know the reason for why the resorts must reside on either the north or south ends of the Dead Sea but I believe it has something to do with deterring people from swimming across the Dead Sea (thus circumventing passport control) from Jordan to Israel and vice versa. Our driver warned us not to swim in the dark as we would risk being shot. He then made it clear that this statement was NOT a joke.
The walk from our room to the shoreline of the Dead Sea was about 15 minutes. There were many stairs and one year from now, guests of this hotel will have to walk even further to reach the shoreline because the Dead Sea is shrinking. It is shrinking due to evaporation and industry use.
This is a staggering statistic: In 1950, the Dead Sea stretched 50 miles long but it is only 30 miles long today (2015) and the water level drops an average of 1 m/ 2 ft every year.
I didn’t understand the astonishing rate that the Dead Sea was shrinking at until we left the Dead Sea and I started reflecting on the shoreline. I’m nearly six feet tall. Two years ago, if I had stood in the same spot as I did the day we visited, I would have been fully submerged.
Suddenly all of the construction work the hotel was doing to create new paths and stairs from the pools to the Dead Sea made sense; They were being retrofitted to reach the ever-shrinking Dead Sea. As we drove south along the eastern shoreline, I realized how lucky we were for choosing the resort we stayed at because some resorts – built around 20 years ago and along the shoreline – were now stranded on little islands, upwards of a mile from today’s shoreline.
Our driver said that Jordan and Israel have been discussing solutions to save the Dead Sea. One idea is to pump water in from either the Red Sea or the Mediterranean Sea but doing so would change the mineral make-up of the Dead Sea, the very thing that it is known for.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth. Wikipedia currently states that it is -1,407 feet below sea level. I think this is close to accurate as there were elevation markers along the path from our resort to the Dead Sea. Here’s one elevation marker I saw next to one of the lower pools of the resort. From this point, it was another 10-minute descent down multiple sets of stairs.
The shore of the Dead Sea was rocky. We went in the water twice. The first time was a taster session to see what the water felt like. The second time was to wash off the mud paste we had rubbed all over our bodies.
The rocks were painful on our feet. I walked upright into the sea the first time but then walked like a cat with my stomach facing the water and using both my hands and feet to distribute my weight as I moved out of the sea and toward the beach. The second time I entered the sea, I walked like a crab with my back facing the water and using both my hands and feet to distribute my weight on the rocks and exited again like a cat. Meow.
After we were done destroying our feet and were walking back to our room, I wondered why our tour company had not warned us about the rocky shoreline and cursed the fact that I had not packed my trusty Crocs. Just as I completed that thought, we found this kiosk offering sea slippers! I don’t know how we missed this kiosk as we walked to and from the Dead Sea along the one-and-only footpath!
The Dead Sea is 9.6x saltier than the ocean and has a lot of other minerals in it which makes humans float. Below is a photo of me doing the standard “Dead Sea float” pose.
And here’s one of me where I had lifted my arms and feet out of the water but was in the process of tipping over when Peter took the photo. The strange thing about the Dead Sea is that no matter how still we were, the water almost always made us tip over.
Here’s a video of me tipping over.
And here’s a video of me doing the Dead Sea Twirl, a popular move I made up on the spot like a choreographer!
I forced Peter to take other videos but he’s camera/video incompetent, so those videos, unfortunately, did not turn out. I’m most sad that the one of me swimming did not turn out because when you swim via the front crawl, your feet pop out of the water, making it impossible to kick.
There you are, swimming on your stomach with the bottoms of your feet pointed toward the sky. During my swimming escapades, we realized that unless someone, somehow became unconscious while in the sea (and flipped over to their stomach), it is almost impossible to drown in the Dead Sea. Swimming across the Dead Sea to Israel needs no stamina or even real swimming skills. Just swim a bit and when you’re tired, stop and float for a bit.
As for the feel of the water, it felt oily and about the same consistency as normal tap water. It wasn’t thick or gritty or really anything weird. It felt like really, really, really softened water which makes sense since because it’s super salty. The water was very cold. I assume it heats up during the summer when temperatures soar past 110 degrees Fahrenheit but I’m not sure.
It’s said the mud from the bottom of the Dead Sea has magical healing powers, so we rubbed mud (our hotel had extracted some and set it in a bucket on the beach) all over our bodies and then washed it off in the Dead Sea a short while later.
It was during the washing-off process that I learned exactly how salty the water was and how painful it is when it gets in your eye. Our driver had warned us not to get water in our eyes and I thought, “Duh”. And then, while I was in the sea and splashing water on my upper arms to wash off the mud, some water splashed into my right eye and, oh my god, that stung a whole hell of a lot.
You know what also stung? My butthole, as in the skin around the actual hole. Bear with me for a minute. There was a sign on the beach that listed all the warnings and rules of the Dead Sea.
Example 1: Don’t enter the Dead Sea after shaving.
Example 2: Don’t enter the Dead Sea if you have open cuts.
Basically, this sign was informing you that you will be in immense pain if you have a cut and you get the salty Dead Sea water in that cut. I read the sign and I thought I was good-to-go since I didn’t have any cuts (that I knew of) and I hadn’t shaved recently but it didn’t take long for me – after entering the water – to become acutely aware of exactly how many cuts I had on my body. I had a cut on my finger that I was unaware of which, when soaked in water, felt as though my finger was on fire.
I also had taken a big (?) poop that morning which apparently caused hairline cuts around my butthole. My butthole burned so bad, you guys. I wanted to get out of the water but knew that a burning butthole would be a pussy excuse and I just dealt with the pain for the duration because I knew I’d never return to the Dead Sea so had to make the most of the opportunity.
I mean, what was I supposed to say when people asked me how the Dead Sea was? That I couldn’t stay in it because my butthole burned too bad? That sounds ridiculous! On a side note, I asked Peter if his butthole burned and he said “What? No.” and then looked at me like I had lost my mind.
I have contemplated writing to the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa to ask them to amend their warning signage to include the red text below.
Do not enter the Dead Sea if:
- You have shaved recently.
- You have a cut or think you may have a cut.
- You have pooped recently and it was a big poop or even medium-sized poop.
After our two dips and one mud bath in the Dead Sea, we rinsed off with fresh water, ate lunch and laid by the pool for the remainder of the afternoon. What I learned from the rinsing process was that I didn’t rinse all the salt water off of my body because my skin became irritated a few hours later.
Downsides of going in the Dead Sea:
- Water is cold in the winter
- Rocky shoreline hurts feet
- Cuts and eyes do not mesh well with the salty water
- Potential of a burning butthole
Upsides of going in the Dead Sea:
- Skin will feel soft, hydrated and exfoliated for about 48 hours
- Toxins will [supposedly] be washed from your body
- You get to say you have visited the lowest point on Earth
- Sleep will be improved because it’s always improved on holidays by a sea