The Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, the saltiest body of water in existence. So salty, no life form can survive in or near it (hence, the DEAD part of its name).
Thousands of people travel to the Dead Sea each year to float in its waters, experience near weightlessness, cover themselves in mineral mud, and enjoy the beautiful desert landscape. Of course the Dead Sea was a stop on our Israel itinerary.
Before plunging in, you are warned that any small cut will sting like, well, like salt in a wound! Don’t shave a few days beforehand, either, they advise. All this great information, and yet, one very obvious thing (obvious once you’ve been in the Dead Sea, that is) is conspicuously left out. So, ladies, I am here to share with you a very pertinent fact included in no guidebook I know of: your lady parts will burn like hell.
Let’s back up a bit before we delve into this.
We started our day hiking Mount Masada. After ascending the Roman Ramp (the easy side of the mountain), we learned all about the Roman assault of the Jews atop Masada, and that the almost 1,000 Jews living there committed mass suicide rather than be taken as Roman slaves. The ruins of the fortress of Masada are amazing, and overlook the incredibly architectural-looking desert plain leading up to the Dead Sea:
How were people able to live on top of a mountain in the middle of the desert, you ask? Well, those crafty folks had devised an ingenious water system. Masada actually had twelve cisterns of water that held enough hydration for the 1,000 residents for four years. So, Masada was the place to be, until those pesky Romans ruined everything with their aggressive imperialism.
After our tour of Masada, we hiked down the snake path on the other side of the mountain, and boy were our legs shaking after that. Sarah actually fell down, and the resulting cut/bruise did sting like the dickens in the Dead Sea, so they were right about that:
Tired and sweaty, we made our way to the Ein Gedi Spa, our gateway to the Dead Sea. After wolfing down lunch and changing into our bathing suits, which we may never be able to wear again because they now smell like sulfur soooo bad, we took a little train car shuttle down to the shores of the Sea and got right in.
First observation: the water was HOT. Not tepid, not just warm, but actually hot. It was about 95 degrees out, and the water was trailing not too far behind the air temperature. So, not a refreshing dip, but pleasant in its own way.
Second observation: I’m floating, and I couldn’t stop if I wanted to! You haven’t experienced buoyancy if you haven’t been to the Dead Sea. If I didn’t have both of my feet pointed downwards, I instantly flipped onto my back or stomach (and got a disgusting mouthful of water). Even out where I couldn’t stand I didn’t have to do one iota of work to stay afloat. This Sea is SALTY. 32% salty, to be exact, which makes for unprecedented and excellent floatage.
Third observation: OUCH. As we waded into deeper waters, all of the girls in our group looked at each other with shared shock and surprise. This salt thing was not messing around. We tried to ignore the pain; we still bobbed around, enjoying the water and the sun, but after an agonizing ten minutes, I got out. My sisters stuck with it and report that after a while, the feeling began to subside, but I couldn’t take it anymore! I returned to shore to photograph hardier souls than myself.
After our interesting experience, we all agree that it was completely and totally worth it, but we would have liked to have known what we were in for before we dove in, uninformed. So, interwebs, consider this our public service announcement to all the women out there: the Dead Sea will sting you in places you would rather not be stung.
Just sayin’ …