Dead Sea History
Located in the Jordan Rift Valley, the Dead Sea is bordered by Israel & Palestine to the East and Jordan to the West. The area is a unique spot where Biblical history unfolded. The turquoise calm water against sand-colored hills create majestic lunar landscape where one can literally soak up the history.
The Dead Sea’s earliest known name is recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, where it is referred to as “the Salt Sea”. It has been mentioned in the Bible as the “Salt Sea” or the “Sea of the Arabah.” In the Crusader era, it also earned the names of “Devil’s Sea” and the “Stinking Sea.” Having existed for over 2 million years and once an ocean close to the Mediterranean, Dead Sea today is a mere 50 kms long and 15 km wide at its widest point.
Why is it called the Dead Sea?
At 430 meters (1400 feet) below the sea level, Dead Sea is earth’s lowest point on land. The Jordan River is the only major water source flowing into the lake. The lower depth makes it a stagnant plane with no flow of rain and surface water, which means water flows into it but doesn’t flow out. The trapped water has no escape, but is to constantly evaporate. With scarce rainfall and souring Middle Eastern temperatures; the year-round hot dry climatic conditions lead to significant loss of water. The daily evaporation of 7 million tons of water has left behind water with high density and rich deposits of minerals & salts in its base and shoreline. This makes it the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. The salinity makes for a harsh environment in which nothing can flourish ( no animals, weeds, algae), giving it the name ‘Dead Sea’.
Sea Salt Baths
The mud of the Dead Sea has high concentration of sea salts & minerals with high medicinal values. In Ancient Egypt, it is believed that Cleopatra used this mud in her daily beauty regime. The Romans guarded the area with an army and sold the soil as a commodity to the traders from distant worlds. The minerals are known for curing skin conditions like psoriasis and rheumatism. That is the reason why you see people slapping mud cakes on skin and soaking up in the water.
Can you swim in the Dead Sea?
The Dead Sea water is eight times saltier than the other oceans of the world. The evaporation and hypersalinity adds the density to the water making it impossible to sink! Though it is fun to float on the water, it could be life threatening if you end up swallowing the hyper salinated water. It can give severe internal burns and chemical pneumonia caused by salt water entering into respiratory system.
Floating in the Dead Sea!
Floating on water is fun! No trip to Israel or Jordan can be complete without visiting the Dead Sea. Of course besides the fun of floating, the medicinal value of rich minerals in the mud is another reason to visit the area. Many tourists and locals visit the resorts and spas around Dead Sea beaches for mud treatments and salt baths.
I was cautious while dipping in the Dead Sea. But despite of my precautions and being careful not to splash any water, the salty water went into my eyes twice and it was stinging like hell. So the mud pack was part was good, but not getting my face wet with the water. In fact it was scary.
Is Dead Sea dying!
The water is evaporating at an alarming speed and it may seem to disappear in next few decades! Every year, the lake drops over a meter per year. If this goes on, the Dead Sea could face the Aral Sea’s fate: becoming a dead salt plane. But as the BBC article explains, the Dead Sea will never be fully dead. The science of saltiness and saturation means that the Dead Sea will eventually reach a point of equilibrium where it will stop shrinking. Read more about Why it will never dead...it is fascinating! The article also talks about formations of large ‘Sink Hole’ when the underground salt deposits left behind by the sea either collapse into huge chasms leaving large holes on the surface of the earth. The project of linking Red Sea with Dead Sea is another futuristic plan to herald the death of the salt lake.
Things to do in Jordan
I strongly recommend taking the King’s Highway to explore other destinations in Jordan. The highway runs along the Eastern coast of the Dead Sea for over 40 kilometers and you can spot local farmers growing tomatoes, bananas, watermelons in the rich fertile soil.