3 – 4 May 2017
We drove towards the South of the country to the Holy Grail of Jordan- Dead Sea and nearby Petra. The highway that cuts across the country brought us closer and closer to our next destination. Our hotel Mujiz Chatlet is located within walking distance to Mujiz Reserve. Unlike the many resorts around the Northern area of the Dead Sea (Jordan side), the south is more quiet and appears to be closer to Israel. Despite only having one more hour left of the afternoon sun, I could still see the Golden Dome of something holy in Israel. The water is more shallow than the North but you still float due to the salinity. Staying around the South of the Dead Sea was a great way to not just take a peek at Israel or find some peace of mind but most importantly, it re-confirms the talent that we humans possess- wrecking the environment.
Dead Sea (more like the landlocked Dead Lake) is 430 m below sea level and regarded as the lowest point on earth. There are no outlets for the water to escape except for the process of evaporation thus, this body of water is rich in salt and minerals. With 34.2% salinity, it is 9.6 times more saltier than the ocean. No plants and animal can live in such conditions except for bacteria, alga and microbial fungi. (Try not to let the water get into your eyes since it stings!)
Salinity and the presence of natural minerals makes this place top on the list for tourists looking for some health treatment.
The area around the Dead Sea being 3 million years old has much historical and religious significance. Many cities mentioned in the Book of Genesis were along the southeastern shore. The Nabateans discovered the value of the lake’s natural asphalts and sold it to e.g. Egyptians who used it for embalming mummies + cosmetic products. Ancient Romans knew about the Dead Sea and subsequently built fortresses and palaces along the western bank. Cleopatra also loved the place so much that she ordered resorts to be built and used for her retreat. Due to its geographic location, it was a place of escape and refuge most notably for many Greek Orthodox monks during the Byzantine Era. Fast forward to the 19th century, the area was explored by many Europeans. From 1940s to 1950s, religious documents were found in caves near Qumran (West Bank)- these Dead Sea Scrolls made the place even more famous.
There weren’t many hotel guests that night. Li Chin and I were the only ones taking a splash and laughing our heads off since floating on the Dead Sea was a dream for the both of us. The afternoon sun faded but we lingered until darkness until “Hey Madam, time to leave the water. It is dark so dangerous dangerous!”. The hotel attendants did one last round of checks then reminded us that we could always float again tomorrow morning before our expedition to Petra. Darkness descended upon the holy land and it became pitch dark. Temperature dropped and we huddled inside our rooms until next morning.
We spent the next morning floating one last time on the Dead Sea.
As I floated alongside Li Chin, I couldn’t help but think about the future of this Dead Lake.
Back in 1930, our spot would not be considered the Southern tip of the Dead Sea. Sinkholes around the shoreline are signs of the diminishing Lake that has seen an annual drop of 1m ever since 1960s when Israel and Jordan started to use the water for commercial purposes. This drastic decline and change has caught the attention of the officials who are now pouring money to save the Dead Sea whilst ensuring that Jordan still have plenty of water supply. From 1930 to 2016, total surface area of the Dead Sea went from 1050 sq km to 605 sq km and water level has dropped 40 m.
I watched on as the salinity attacked the open wound on my left knee (I slipped)…the pain took over but what was surprising was that it only ached for half a minute before my entire body became covered with an oily substance. The pain went away, the last bit of blood disappeared in the Dead Sea and all went back to normal. We washed away the mud that covered us from head to toe (5JD/one packet) and took one last look of the place. The aftermath of taking a gulp of the salty water still remained after our departure.