As I drive down to 400m below sea level, the landscape becomes drier and drier. The temperature rises and the stone desert looks like a hostile environment in which nothing ever grows or stays alive. I love those barren landscapes, a proof of the overpowering forces of nature.
I am on my way to Ein Gedi, an Israeli oasis on the west side of the Dead Sea. Hotels and therapeutic resorts spruce up, ready to accommodate the thousands of tourists looking for mud, sulphur baths and various health treatments.
I don’t really want to go to a spa or hotel. My plan is to drive down to the shore, spread out my towel on a deserted stretch of beach where I will cover myself in an abundant amount of mud, rinse it off only to revive with a perfectly soft and creamy skin. Turns out the plan didn’t quite work out that way…
You see, people don’t do the mud-thing right by the beach, simply because there IS no mud there. The beach is a sandy, very salty affair, but mud… no. If you want to experience a mud treatment, you simply have to go to one of the spas. Reluctantly I opt for the””Ein Gedi Spa”.
Bathing suits on, I am shown towards the garden where a trough full of mud awaits me. I get stuck in, slathering the pretty cold mud on every inch of my body. It isn’t quite as glamorous as I thought it would be, but good fun nonetheless! And definitely worth it: after a hot shower, my body feels smoother than ever!
But THE thing to do in the area is of course bathing in the Dead Sea and take that oh-so famous “I am reading a newspaper in the Dead Sea picture”. A 20 minute walk through dry and barren grounds takes me to the shore. On the way down, signs indicate the shore level in 1990, in 2000, … a clear proof that the Dead Sea is shrinking and drying up at an alarming rate of 1m every year!
I never feel very comfortable in water, so I ask my friend Ursula to go in first, just to make sure the whole “floating in the Dead Sea” thing isn’t just a myth… Turns out it isn’t. Ursula is floating peacefully on the salty surface. Reassured and putting on a brave face, I make my way into the water. My first impression is, that apart from being salty, it is a very oily affair too! I lean backwards, still not 100% at ease, until my back touches the water surface. And then, finally, I float…well, for a few seconds at least. You see I wasn’t quite expecting small waves in the Dead Sea! With the little movement they create, I soon manage to splash salt water into my eyes. Trust me, you do not want that! Do I look relaxed in this picture? Nope, didn’t think so!
After ten minutes I have enough. Turns out swimming in the Dead Sea is a pretty boring affair after a while… My skin is bone dry by then, cancelling all beneficial effects I had earlier on from the mud treatment…
Determined to go healthy again, I head for the sulphur baths, a very well known treatment for arthritis and all sorts of pain relief. Now, I want you to bear that in mind when you enter those baths, cause your first reaction will be one of nausea and utter disgust. Turns out sulphur has the not so pleasant side-effect that it smells like rotten egg! I soak for about 15 minutes in the hot, though still smelly, waters.
At the end of the day, I leave the Dead Sea with the feeling that my hair and skin are damaged for life because of the salt and I am also convinced that I am spreading a horrible whiff!
Not quite the pampering I had in mind when setting off…
Have you been floating in the Dead Sea? Have you ever pictured something that turned out quite different? Looking forward to reading it in the comments!