I wake up to the news that against all predictions, His Donald Trumpness – the ‘joke’ candidate is the new US president elect. Television pictures show that even Mr Trump seems slightly startled by the new reality. Let’s not forget that before the vote he had his sights set on exposing a Hillary Clinton ‘rigged’ win, but enough of him. There’s something else that is leaving me breathless with disbelief and causing my legs to fly out at unusual angles to boot. Strictly Come Dancing? Nope. It’s a dip in the Dead Sea.
This is our second trip to Jordan. The first time we went to the spectacular Petra site but couldn’t fit the Dead Sea into the schedule. A return trip was a must. By lucky chance we’ve arrived at the lowest point on earth, right at the end of the busy season when temperatures are perfect and visitor numbers low. The peacefulness of the area is immediately striking and welcome too after the shock of the news headlines.
The Dead Sea is a salt water lake some 400 metres below sea level and counting. The salt content is visible on the shoreline as sizeable, glittering crystals and its mineral-rich black mud is nature’s very own spa treatment, said to improve circulation, soothe aches and pains and detox the skin. The idea is to slather it on face and body, let it form a crust on the skin for 15 minutes and then wash it off in the waters. I don’t regret turning down the mud treatment having seen others go for it. It was the healing waters I came for.
I usually have to be persuaded to take a dip in the sea or the swimming pool. Not being a confident swimmer, conditions have to be just right and even then I’m not too happy going out of my depth. Wading into unknown waters is rare indeed for me but I am curious. I can see several others floating on their backs and even though I’m only in up to my waist the water feels different – syrupy and heavy.
I tentatively lift a foot up and, as if by magic, both legs shoot from underneath me and I’m afloat, bobbing on the water like a creature of the sea! It’s a liberating, relaxing sensation and must be even more so for people less mobile than me. No fish can survive in the Dead Sea but those of us in the water look like a new crucifix-shaped species with heads back, arms outstretched and legs straight ahead.
The golden rule is not to try to swim on your front and to avoid getting water in your eyes. Using my hands as crude paddles I find I can steer myself in any direction with ease. Getting your feet to touch down again is quite a task, best accomplished in the shallows and using your hands to anchor yourself to the sea bed.
The mud treatment can be purchased in sachets for use at home and while the commercial exploitation of this natural product is somewhat inevitable, the actual experience at the waterside is thankfully not prettified much beyond a towel and a shower. There’s quite a bit of clambering down and I was glad to have had a heads up on the stony ground at the water’s edge so I came prepared with waterproof beach shoes.
Across the water and beyond the Judaea Mountains are sacred and holy places, their names resonant with history, conflict and faith – Jerusalem, Jericho, the West Bank, Bethlehem and Hebron. Not far from here is the site where it is said that Jesus was baptised. No wonder it feels spiritual, the sort of place where miracles could happen.
A short drive away is the Dead Sea Panorama complex and museum. From a high look-out point in the early evening we enjoyed fabulous views at sunset, the best time to capture the play of light on the water. The museum outlines the history, geology and the unique ecosystem of the area.
I have read a few bad reviews of bathing in the Dead Sea but I went back for more on another day – no stinging, itching or burning sensations, just silky smooth skin and body and mind, floaty and relaxed. A perfect antidote to Donald’s Trumpery.