Everything floats effortlessly on the Dead Sea, they say. And so, as we make our way from Amman in Jordan to the banks of this unique water body — the lowest point on the Earth’s surface — I have these wonderful visions of bobbing about casually in the Sea like a cork.
Our first image of the Sea does nothing to dispel these illusions. Under a dull dust haze, it’s a vast expanse of absolute pale-blue calm. It isn’t hard to imagine being buoyed by this smooth surface like a rubber duck in a bathtub. Especially once we spy some swimmers floating about on their backs or in a semi-upright position (as if they were sitting on an invisible chair of salt).
But it isn’t as easy as it looks, as we discover about 15 minutes later when we wade in wearing our swimwear. The unbelievably salty water (so salty, indeed, that no life can survive in this sea) has a viscous, oddly oily feel to it, and we find out very quickly that getting it in your eye hurts like crazy (not to mention it can do some serious damage). You don’t want to be getting all that salt in your hair either — which is why the more experienced swimmers get in with swim caps and goggles.
We also discover that the amazingly buoyant nature of the water (a result of its super-high density for the physics geeks reading) means that while the floating is easy — the water virtually pushes your limbs up — getting back to standing position is a toughie. By this point, one member of our group has absolutely red eyes, and it takes the combined efforts of the rest to get another back on his feet, so we’re all treading carefully. (I cravenly opt to lean on a rock and surrender only my legs to the water, so I can clamber back — albeit ungracefully — to my feet myself, and — yes, like the girl I am — keep my hair safe).
Our grand plans of bobbing about in the water have turned into a bit of a damp squib. But then, we discover The Mud. Black and slimy, it doesn’t look like much, but we’re told that this gunk from the bottom of the Dead Sea is amazingly rich in minerals, and does wonders for the skin. All around us, intrepid tourists are smearing the stuff all over themselves, and wandering about waiting for it to dry (we get a bit of a shock the first time we see them).
No woman can resist natural (and free!) skin treatment, so, of course, we head straight to the troughs, regularly filled with mud from the sea bed, and cover ourselves in an all-body mud pack. To all you sceptics out there rolling your eyes in disbelief — the stuff really works. Getting it off is a bit of a chore — you have to hose yourself down with freezing cold water at the water’s edge, and however thorough you are, the black stuff stubbornly sticks on various hard-to-reach spots. But, boy, is it worth it!
So we may not have floated with much success. But we have thoroughly experienced one of the world’s natural wonders. And, our skin is positively glowing to boot. What more could a girl ask for?