It felt like the lowest point in my life. Oh, wait, it was the lowest point of my life. There we were at the Dead Sea, some 1,412 feet below sea level. To put that in context, the lowest point in North America is Death Valley, just 279 feet below sea level. The lowest point in Europe is Baku, Azerbaijan, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, 92 feet below sea level. (If you’re ever asked in a trivia contest, that makes Baku the lowest national capital in the world.) So yeah, the Dead Sea is way down there.
And then there’s all that salt. Around the world, salt makes up typically between 3.1 percent of the water and 3.8 percent. The Dead Sea? A little over 34 percent, so nearly 10 times as salty as normal salt water. The result is that you don’t so much float in the water as bob in it. It’s almost impossible to put your legs down since the salinity just pushes them right up. Needless to say you don’t want to get that water in your eyes; I splashed just a tiny drop in my eye getting out and it stung like the devil.
And that’s about it. We stayed at a nice resort right on the “sea” (it’s really just a modestly big lake with a lot of salt) and besides lazing at the pool and occasionally going down to the sea there’s really not a lot to do. And you can’t even stay in the water very long: not to be too indiscrete but the saline compromises your private parts pretty quickly and then you gotta get out now!
The only interesting thing besides the Dead Sea itself and being lazy was the challenge of finding good food. A resort like that is pretty isolated so you’re typically stuck with whatever overpriced food they want to serve you. After a mediocre lunch on arrival and a mediocre dinner at an Asian restaurant in the resort, though, Mark did a little research on TripAdvisor. There was a Crowne Plaza hotel just a half mile or so up the road with a well-reviewed Lebanese restaurant so we went up to try that.
Security at these Middle East resorts is pretty tight, so at first it wasn’t clear they would even let us in, but eventually some manager-type guy said we could come in. We went to the restaurant and it was great. Good choices, good service, good quality, and – since a Crowne Plaza has a lower price point than our Kempinski hotel – a lot cheaper than eating at our hotel. Needless to say the staff at the Crowne Plaza got to know us over the next couple days.
Oh, there was one more interesting thing: the flies. Oh my God the flies were bad. Apparently during October and November farmers in the area fertilize their fields with manure. The flies are reasonably fond of manure and they breed pretty intensively. Early in the morning when it’s cool they’re not too lively but as the day wears on they come out in force. It was crazy and meant that when we were lying by the pool we would typically have towels over us like blanket just to keep the many, many flies off.
And that was it. A couple bobs in the Sea, lounging at the pool reading a Pulitzer Prize-winnng history of the Soviet Gulags (tell me I don’t know how to have fun), fending off millions of flies, and walking up to the neighboring Lebanese restaurant. Not a bad way to spend three days, but if I ever do it again it won’t be during manure-spreading season!
Next stop, the ruins of Petra.