The Dead Sea, known as the Salt Sea in Hebrew, is 1,412 feet below sea level, making it the lowest place on earth. They call it the ‘Dead’ Sea because of its high salt concentrations, 9.6 times saltier than the oceans, making it impossible for fish to live in the waters.
Not only that, but the salt makes the water oily and thick and causes you to float!
It shares a border with the country of Jordan and is a great source of healthy beauty products since its mud and salt are packed full of healing minerals – all leaving your skin silky smooth.
There are seven public beaches at the Dead Sea; some are free to the public, and some are not – some have clear turquoise water, and some are more mirky with Dead Sea mineral mud.
The Dead Sea is also known for its sinkholes.
Since the 1960s, it has lost 60% of its surface area, and it recedes three ft. (one meter) every year, leaving behind underground salt deposits.
The land collapses after run-off from periodical flash floods dissolves the salt patches, leaving thousands of sinkholes around the shores, some as deep as 33 ft in depth (10 meters).
Chemical companies also extract minerals from seawater, and climate changes also accelerate evaporation – both great causes for sinkholes.
Some public beaches along the hotels have become too dangerous to swim in since their shores have exposed sinkholes and jagged and sharp crystal beds.
Ein Gedi nature reserve!
The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve is the biggest oasis in the dry desert; its name means “kid spring” or “fountain of the kid” (that’s a baby goat or lamb who are playful like our kids!). If it’s hard for you to imagine an oasis, think of a valley where water flows through, sprouting greenery, home to ibexes and rock hyraxes and mammoth-sized mountains giving shade to the sun-stricken hikers below.
You can choose between three trails with cool springs, little bridges and waterfalls, water pathways, and breathtaking views!
The reserve is family-friendly, and the trails have different hiking difficulty levels. You will see babies strapped in a carrier and the elderly walking along the path, little children stopping for a dip in the pools, and groups of soldiers hiking with their weapons – truly, a place for everyone.
There is so much to see at En Gedi, but here are some attractions you don’t want to miss:
- David Waterfall – a year-round waterfall at the end of the easy hiking trail, which is accessible to everyone. It’s closed off by a rope, but you can still enjoy the streams leading to it and sit in the shade of the mountain.
- Arugot Stream – a hiking trail for high-capacity walkers which runs along the length of the stream and leads to the Hidden Waterfall and the pools at the head of the stream.
- The Oasis Trail – a beautiful foot trail that connects the David Stream, the En Gedi Antiquities, and the Arugot Stream! The trail is an easy and comfortable walk. Along the trail, you’ll find convenient signs through which you can learn about the special natural abundance in this area.
This is the same desert in the Judean Hills where David hid from Saul, running from mountain to mountain, hiding in caves, and praying in the desert.
If you’ve ever read the book of Psalms in the Bible, you can see the imagery spring to life – it’s in the jagged rocks that both protect and give shade, it’s in the swiftness of the running gazelle’s blazing trails on the side of the mountain and the bubbling, refreshing waters.
You might encounter friendly gazelles that have become accustomed to human presence, but the park makes it clear to keep from feeding the animals.
Everywhere you go, you are surrounded by nature’s most magnificent views. We recommend you bring water, plenty of sunscreens, and shoes fit for hiking and walking in the water!
On the Ein Bokek strip, you can enjoy little playgrounds, restaurants, parks, outdoor fitness machines, and, best of all – free access to the beach. It has lifeguards, chairs, umbrellas for rent, and free gazebos to spread a towel in the shade.
Looking around, you might see the strange sight of people covered in mud from head to toe. It might seem weird and even gross, but the Dead Sea mud is actually packed with minerals and healing properties, and it will leave your skin feeling silky smooth!
Some beaches have mud, and some do not, but you can always buy a pack of mud at the stores nearby and find Dead Sea health and beauty products and other beach necessities you may have forgotten to pack!
If your swimming skills aren’t up to par, the Dead Sea’s got you covered since you can float, but don’t be fooled; there are lifeguards for a reason. Beware of keeping your balance while floating, and avoid dunking your head or touching your eyes with all that salt! Thankfully, you can find outdoor freshwater showers to rinse off.
Bedouin food at the Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is a Bedouin-style restaurant located in the Ein Bokek hotel complex. It serves a variety of dishes for the whole family, and the best part is that you’re surrounded by a mountain ridge on one side and the dead sea on the other.
Who are the Bedouins? Bedouins are Arabic-speaking nomadic peoples of the Middle Eastern deserts, especially of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Syria and Jordan.
When driving to the Dead Sea, you might see their tents strewn on the side of the mountain and their herds of sheep, goats and camels grazing along.
You can lounge on a comfortable mattress or sit at a table – either way, make room for a whole world of yumminess!
At the Taj Mahal, you will enjoy the best of oriental cooking, including mixed grilled meat, baked pita bread served with olive oil and labneh cheese, and oriental-style salads such as greens with nuts, grilled eggplant, pickled cabbage and baba ganoush.
Don’t forget to get some sweet dessert on your way out. We recommend knafe with Turkish ice cream. Knafe is a Middle Eastern dessert made with spun pastry and cheese, which is grilled on a hot rotating stove. It’s then smothered with simple syrup, a nice lump of pistachio and vanilla ice cream, and topped with pistachios. The cheese is sweet and melty, and it’s best eaten hot!
On a personal note
As I watched the sun set on the Jordanian mountains, I thought how odd and magnificent it was that a stone’s throw away and across the Dead Sea’s invisible border, there is a whole different country, and yet, biblically, it is the promised Land of Israel.
The prophecy in Ezekiel 47 talks about how the Dead Sea will be filled with fresh water and how fishermen will cast their nets there – meaning the Dead Sea, which is slowly dying, will one day be filled with life.
Many view it as doomed, never to be redeemed, and fear it will one day disappear off the map completely – but I say look forwards and upwards. What was once dead will come back to life.
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