The Dead Sea (which in reality is actually a lake) not only breaks two world's records as the deepest highly saline inland body of water and, at 400 m (1400 ft.) below sea level - the lowest point on the planet, but also is set in a tremendously significant region since antiquity. It was here where the important biblical stories had taken place, where Moses had hit the rocks that opened and spouted a stream of fresh water for the Israelites and Kind David took refuge. It served as one of the earliest spas and a resort in which the rulers of the ancient world used to relax.
Nearby, in the town of Madaba you can admire the world's oldest mosaic-map of the entire Holy Land. Later on, you can also have a look at the real Holy Land - from Mount Nebo where, according to the Bible, Moses was presented with the view of the Promised Land. And, after a day filled with mystical stories and legends - you would be more than happy to immerse yourself in the salty waters of the Dead Sea (which won't let you sink) and take an original mud treatment! Much better than in all the modern, boring posh spas!
How to get to Dead Sea
It's easy to get to Dead Sea from both sides - Jordanian and Israeli. I haven't visited the Israeli part but I assume it will be much more crowded with tourists. From Jordan, it's easy and not too expensive to organize a trip to the Dead Sea and area. Especially now, when due to the events in the Middle East, there are very few tourists around.
Your hotel can organize a tour for you that would include the Dead Sea, Madaba and Mount Nebo but I suppose it will be even cheaper if you ask around or contact a tour agency. I traveled in Jordan for a week with a local driver -to reach the Dead Sea, we drove from Amman towards the absolutely spectacular Wadi Rum desert - do not miss it! (I will describe it in the future). Besides the famous Petra, I saw a couple of western visitors here and there, but basically all the amazing historical and natural attractions were almost completely empty.
From Amman, the capital (I have described it here in detail) - it's only a 1.5 hour drive (60 km/35 miles), and from Aqaba (Jordanian Red Sea resort town) - nearly 4 hours (over 300 km/185 miles). Te historical sites of Madaba and Mount Nebo are located just beside the Dead Sea - only a 20 minute drive. The day tour including all the above mentioned sites from Amman should not cost more than 30-40 JOD (45-55 USD/35-45 EUR).
Mount Nebo, located more or less halfway between Amman and Dead Sea is an important historical site - according to the Bible it was here where Moses was shown the Promised Land by God. From the top you can see all the important cities of Holy Land and even (according to the legend) the point where Moses struck the rock with the rod (called staff) and water appeared. Another story says that Mount Nebo was the place of his death.
The site is marked with the large brazen cross in the shape of a serpent. The monument, created by an Italian artist, is to commemorate the brazen serpent made by Moses as well as the cross on which Jesus was crucified. Nearby, there are some remains of a Byzantine Church built in the 4th century to honor the place where Moses died.
The town of Madaba is located south from Mount Nebo - around 30 km (18 miles) from Amman. Madaba is know best from the 6th century mosaic depicting the area of the Holy Land in great details with many important landmarks in antiquity. It's the oldest mosaic representing both: geographical and religious sites and has enormous scientific value. The mosaic is situated in the church of Saint George. It really makes you wonder how precise and talented ancient people must have been to have created such a breathtaking piece of art.
The Dead Sea
Is the Dead Sea a sea or a lake?
The Dead Sea, contrary to what its name suggests is actually a lake. It's one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth - with 34% of salinity. The name was derived from the fact that no living creature can survive such harsh environment. Not to mention that it's located among extremely dry, barren desert mountains. The lake has been visited and exploited for millenia - it provided a wide range of products for ancient cosmetics - even for use in mummification in ancient Egypt.
Swimming in Dead Sea
Normal swimming is not possible. The water in the Dead Sea is so salty that it feels almost like oil, however it's easier to get into it as it doesn't feel as cold as normal water does. You must be careful not to let the water touch your eyes as it may be extremely painful. Enjoying Dead Sea should be treated as a unique experience, not as another ordinary day on the beach. Do not even try diving! The best way is to just lie down on your back and let the water carry you on its surface.
Although it can get extremely hot, especially during the summer - the sun at the Dead Sea is not as strong due to the very low elevation. However, use some sun lotion - as normal.
Try the mineral treatment with mud! It's completely black and smells quite weird but it's so much fun! I really enjoyed the whole experience and I hope to come back again!
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