There are a couple of things to know about swimming in the Dead Sea. First, it’s not a sea, it’s a lake of mineral-dense water. The other thing is that you don’t swim.
Signs on the shore advise that if you get water in your eyes you should exit and rinse in the cold water showers provided. If you want to swim you do it here, in the infinity pool overlooking the Dead Sea.
So it doesn’t just look surreal, it looks spooky. The hazy light hides the far shore of Israel and the water moves like something not quite liquid, more like runny honey. So what with the eyecare warning; the invisible horizon; the viscous water – and the very idea of water that no animals can live in – I was a bit nervous about getting wet until a man in a hat floating out in the water, feet and arms extended into the air as if he just flopped into a beanbag, burst into a loud rendition of a Negro spiritual. “I’m just a-going over Jordan,” echoed across the water. What was spooky was now just plain weird.
Near a clump of bulrushes, people were standing, arms and legs akimbo, completely covered in black mud. The mud of the dead sea is mineral rich and has therapeutic properties. A mud bath is an important part of a Dead Sea experience.Urns of mud stand by full-length mirrors to allow for even application.
Black clad I stepped into the water. It was silky smooth, with a texture like satin, slippery and luscious. The stones were uncomfortable on the soles of my feet so it seemed easier just to sit in the water and float off. My shoulders stayed dry. Out in the deep I stretched my feet down to the unreachable bottom, and the water still only came to my chest. I lay on my back and felt as if most of my body was out of the water. The sensation made me giggle, especially when the man in the hat started on ‘The Rivers of Babylon’.
Jordan: the lowdown
Go or not?
Go! It’s an experience like no other.
Kempinski Ishtar Resort, where I stayed, is vast and slightly brutalist. On the upside, the rooms are huge and comfortable, and you can work off all that humous walking from your room to the pools or the sea. Also, the food is terrific. If Kempinski is not your style, or pricepoint, there are lots of options in the same general area.
The Dead Sea resorts are about 45 minutes from Amman,the capital of Jordan. A new airport opened in Amman last year, and it’s now easy to get a quick flight from Abu Dhabi or from Dubai, so Jordan can easily be a stopover on your way to or from Europe.
See Petra, the 1st century city carved out of rock; take a camel ride in Wadi Rum, the desert where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed; and eat seriously good humous.
Disclaimer: I travelled to Jordan courtesy of the Jordanian Tourist Authority.