Lounging on the Shores of the Dead Sea
It seemed somehow weirdly appropriate that we were spending the final day of our journey at the Dead Sea, a name that has a tinge of finality to it.
|Salt flats around the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth.
The Dead Sea lies in the Jordan Rift Valley and the border between Jordan and Israel runs right through the middle of the lake. The lake’s surface is 1,412 feet (430.5 meters) below sea level, making it the lowest land on our planet. It is currently 31 miles (50 kilometers) long and 9 miles (15 kilometers wide), although since 1960, when some of the water of its only tributary, the Jordan River, was diverted for human use, the lake been shrinking noticeably.
It has been known as a dead sea for millennia. The Arabian name is Al-Bahr Al-Mayyit, meaning Sea of Death. The Romans called it Mare Mortuum. The name is very apt. The water is almost ten times saltier than the ocean, and the only living things in the lake are tiny amounts of bacteria and microbial fungi. But it is filled with minerals – potash, bromine, magnesium, sodium chloride.
Because of these minerals and the almost always sunny climate,
it was well-known in the ancient world for its healing properties. One of the earliest health resorts in history
sat on its banks and was used by Herod the Great. Visitors still come here for
the mud baths at resorts along its shore.
The first third of our two-hour ride from Petra to our last stop wound through the mountains with some magnificent views of the sandstone hills and valleys. After a quick stop at an overlook of the low, flat landscape below, we headed down the steep mountains toward the Dead Sea.
|The long and winding road
|Our first view of the Jordan Rift Valley
|At the overlook
Once we reached the valley floor, we drove through an
agricultural landscape with date palms and fields of tomatoes. All along the road, young men were selling
huge bins of tomatoes for $1.00. We occasionally
had to slow down to avoid the sheep being herded down the road.
|Sheep on the highway
|Tomatoes spilled in the dirt
|One of the small towns along the shores of the Dead Sea
|Agriculture in the valley
Soon we reached the shores of the Dead Sea. The not particularly attractive southern section
was lined with mining operations and machinery, but as we moved north, the
industry was replaced by a few resorts on the banks of the bright blue water.
|Mining operations along the southern shores of the Dead Sea
Our hotel, the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, is close to the northern
tip of the Dead Sea, not far from where the Jordan River empties into the
lake. The hotel was spectacular, built
on several levels with bright gold sandstone blocks, several pools, restaurants,
and lounges. We happily settled into our
room, which had a terrace with a great view of the lake and the Israeli-occupied
West Bank of Palestine directly across from us.
About twenty miles beyond the West Bank were the hills of Jerusalem, and
the ancient city of Jericho lay to the northwest of us in the valley. What a historic landscape!
|The view from our terrace of the Kempinski Ishtar Hotel
|Joan on the terrace
|Rooms and walkways around the hotel
|One of several buildings of rooms
|The grounds of the hotel
|One of the several pools
|The Infinity Pool above the Dead Sea
|Lounge Chairs at the Infinity Pool
|The Wading Pool
|Yet another pool at the hotel
We walked through the large grounds of the hotel to the
restaurant just above the lake where we enjoyed a delicious lunch, including one of the best treats of the
entire trip, a “Green Gazpacho” soup made of cucumber, green apple, mint, and
lemon. (When we got home, I tried to
duplicate it. My efforts were okay, but
I’m going to keep experimenting until I get it right!)
|The Akkad Pool and Grill Restaurant
|Inside seating at the Akkad Restaurant
|Green Gazpacho Soup - YUM!
|Fresh Mediterranean cuisine
|Fresh fish - but not from the Dead Sea!
As gorgeous as the hotel was, it was really just a spot to
relax before our long journey home. We
spent the afternoon sitting pool-side, exploring the various pools and artwork
of the hotel, and packing our bags. (My
clothes always seem to gain weight on our trips. My suitcase never packs quite as flat as when
we started. It's a mystery!)
|The fearless birds have learned that tourists leave crumbs.
|Sculpture garden over the Dead Sea
|One of the lobbies in the hotel
|Blue and purple orchids
|A 700-year-old olive tree
|Sculpture in the main lobby
We had been told that we would be able to see the lights of
Jerusalem from our room, and sure enough, there were city lights far off in the
distance over the lake. A beautiful
sight for our last evening of the trip.
|The lights of Jerusalem
We woke before sunrise for our 5:30 a.m. drive to the Queen
Alia International Airport in Amman, only about an hour away. The plane ride home was long, with transfers
in London and Phoenix, but since the first two flights took place in daylight, I got a lovely view of icy Hudson Bay as we passed over.
|Queen Alia International Airport in Amman
|Hudson Bay in February
|I enjoy checking out our progress on the flight map.