Friday, June 27, 2008

The Dead Sea

The original plan was to go to Tel Aviv, this time to go to the beach as one is supposed to: with a bathing suit, a towel, sun protection and a lot of time available. The only problem would be taking my hair and leaving at home my belly...
It was not supposed to be this time.
At work there was someone organizing the foreigners to go to the Dead Sea. I accepted the invitation.
So today, Friday, which is the equivalent of a western Saturday, we set off at 9:00am for the operation. We met at the office to do the preparations, which almost comically seemed like the ones for a military operation. There was some logic in it, after all the dead sea is located in the West Bank which is part of the Palestinian Authority and because of what one reads in the news.
We went in three cars not knowing what to expect, over-organized and ended up getting the worst route possible, reminding us of so many CG productions we've been in.
It was an experience to go past there, but not an adrenaline filled one. There are many tourist buses going up and down the highway, and it is much less militarized and tense than one would imagine. Of course there were tree or four check points, but there were no traffic jams nor any hassle as we passed them. Remember that Friday is a busy day on the highways.
The only thing that really reminds one of the troubles in the region are the modern looking houses surrounded by barbed wire by the road. They are probably the famous settlements, some scattered condominiums which apparently are impeding the progress of global peace talks...
We passed a sign indicating that we were going below the sea level. The road continues to go down quite a lot after it, the dead sea is about 420 meters below the ocean level. If I am not mistaken it is the lowest point on this planet.
The vegetation is scarce and there is hardly anyone or anything to be seen by the motorway except for the odd camel for tourists to take pictures on, gas stations some farms, yes farms in the middle of the desert, and an Arab shepherd here and there. We pass by Jericho, made famous in the pages of the Bible, just before arriving.
The Dead Sea is surrounded by mountains, one side of it is in Israel, or should I say the Palestinian Territories, and the other one is Jordan. There is not one wave on it, there is some humidity in the air and the place is horribly hot.
Our final destination was a kind of a Spa, or beach, by the sea which we paid to get in. The beach is probably the strangest one I've been in my life. There is no sand, just little stones that are a torture for the foot, the bed of the sea is muddy and stony, and there are these big solid clumps of salt. The water feels like hot oil and when one is in the water it seems as if someone filled you up with air, you actually float!!!!
If you try to stand in the water it kind of pushes you off balance, you can't really swim in it because even a drop in your eye is extremely painful. All very very weird.
Then there is the black mud that people pass on their skin, everyone was passing it so I decided to give it a go, one looks as if one has a wet suit when it is on, it does not feel gooey or anything and comes off easily. After the shower I went to this covered pool of natural sulphuric water which also wasn't the best experience on earth. It was bloody hot and had an unpleasant smell!!!
Finally there was a children's pool with normal cold water, probably the best place to be in the resort. The place was full of overweight and senior citizens, the both pointing to my inglorious physical future.
The whole place gives an impression of something that was not supposed to be, the water should be connected to the sea, there should ships sailing through it, waves, pretty young ladies walking it's beaches, life...
I once read something about the Dead Sea portraying it as a situation which one should avoid getting into: isolation, drying out because of lack of contact, shrinking to the world. The Dead Sea is like the conflict in the region: a stalemate.
On the positive side I hope that what they say about going into the Dead Sea, and going into Sulphuric water being good for your health is true.
The pictures are coming soon...

No comments: