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Come Swim with Me at the Most Exotic Place on Earth

In truth, we won't be swimming much, for the Dead Sea has such incredibly high salt content (30%) that it places the body too high in the water to stroke properly.  As a former lifeguard and a strong swimmer, I found it an odd sensation.  Is it even possible to drown in the Dead Sea?  I dunno.  Though we won't be doing any laps, we can bob and float on our backs while perusing a magazine or a newspaper.  And we can slather ourselves in therapeutic mud, the mineral content of which is said to be good for allergies, bronchial infections, glandular ailments, skin problems, relaxation, and world peace.  OK, I made up that last one.  Both of these stereotypical Dead Sea images are contained in my most recent photo gallery:


Just pray you don't have any openings on your skin.  Don't shave before the swim.  And, if any water gets in your eyes, steel yourself for a few minutes of sheer agony.  (I learned this the hard way.)

The Dead Sea is known locally as Al Bahr Al Mayit or Bahr Lut (the Sea of Lot).  Part of the border between Jordan and the West Bank runs through it.  It is roughly 40 miles long and between four and 12 miles wide.  Its main water source is the Jordan River, but it has no outlet.

Its name is apropos because its salt content is seven times greater than that of the oceans, making most plant and animal life impossible.  Eleven species of bacteria can survive in this environment, but no fish.  The high salinity is due to a high evaporation rate which has, over time, led to a build up of salts.

In recent decades, the Dead Sea has been receding by about 16 feet a year, mainly because there is no longer much inflow from the stagnant Jordan River (please see my photographs of the Jordan River here http://www.redroom.com/galleryimage/bethany-beyond-jordan-where-jesus-was-baptized-john-0 and here http://www.redroom.com/galleryimage/the-river-jordan-and-church-bethany-beyond-jordan-where-jesus-was-baptized-john), water is diverted from it for irrigation, and, of course, there is a high evaporation rate.  The water level has fallen to 1,378 feet below sea level, and about 30% of the Dead Sea's original area has vanished.  Some experts believe it may dry up completely within the next 50 years, so there are efforts underway to reverse this trend, possibly by constructing a "Dead to Red" (i.e., Dead Sea to Red Sea) canal.

I've included a couple photographs of the environmental devastation of the Dead Sea in my photo gallery, but mostly I've kept it light and frivolous so as not to ruin your day at the beach.  Oh, and I almost forgot to warn you. . .when you get out of the water, be sure to have a fresh water shower and shampoo right away.  Otherwise the saline crust that forms on your skin as the water evaporates will have you moving with all the fluidity of the Tin Man before Dorothy found him and oiled him, and it will take days of concerted effort before you will be able to drag a comb through your hair.  :-)  (I learned this the hard way, too.)

6 Comment count
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This sounds awesome

When I was a kid, I saw a program about the Dead Sea.  The host sat on the water reading his magazine -- and I remember being astonished.  Of course, you've probably done that egg in the glass of water trick; you keep adding salt in the water until the egg floats up.

Dunno, maybe the mud therapy can bring world peace.  We should try other options.  Better than always resorting to that first option every time we have a problem.

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If as an adult you can

If as an adult you can remember a program you watched about the Dead Sea when you were a child, then you would probably love the whole experience.  Most Dead Sea visitors have someone shoot of picture of them leaning back into the water and reading something.  We women already have the higher body fat levels to float easily in any kind of water, but for men this is a new experience.  :-)  And, you're right. . .it's like the salt/egg/water trick from the third grade science fair.

I wish mud therapy could solve the Middle Eastern conflicts.  When you visit the Dead Sea from the Jordanian side, you are very near all the tight border security, and you can easily see the West Bank on the other side.  I felt as though I could've even floated/swam over there, it's so close, but I wouldn't.  And, anyway, I'm told the middle of the Dead Sea is mined to prevent just such a thing from happening.  But, when you're there, you think about all the conflict, all the displaced people, all the hate, and it just seems so senseless and out of place in the context of the beautiful setting, the warmth of the desert at the lowest point on Earth, the salty water, and the relaxing mud.  How can so much trouble be so close to all that?

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Only adults act that way

It's funny how people always talk about maturity but I wonder whether we are actually more mature as we grow up.  The small kids I know they share, don't see differences, and they geniunely love.  Sure they don't always get along but at the end of the day they learn to play with each other. 

Conversely what do we do as adults?  We kill each other whenever we have problems we can't resolve.  Mature indeed.

Now I'm not the type who believe in this peaceful protest stuff because that's not action; that's sitting on their duffs complaining.  I think it's an illusion of progress.  What we need is some cold hard analysis on wars and conflict, like we do for disease.

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There is a Stanford

There is a Stanford professor who is studying reconciliation.  Can't come up with his name at the moment.  But he has worked at successfully bringing together the various parties involved in the Irish struggles, victims of crime and their perpetrators, and others.

I've often thought the Bishop Desmond Tutu "peace and reconciliation commission" model might be worth trying in the Middle East.  The divisions go back so far and run so deep.  It's just hard for me to believe an American president who hasn't lived in the region, who doesn't fully understand all the issues and their nuances, who doesn't speak Hebrew or Arabic, who isn't credibly neutral, is going to be able to bring these parties together in any meaningful, lasting way.  Hope I'm wrong, though.

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...your name is Barack Obama, a guy that seems to transcend race and be willing to listen (now you know my political leaning).  Demands, bombs, and guns have their chance already.  Let's try something different.

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As the Arabs say, Inshallah

As the Arabs say, Inshallah (God willing)!