The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth

The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth

Talking about the Dead Sea, Indian yogi and mystic writes: “To soak in this mineral soup is like being in the motherly sap, the salty sap of the earth, life nourishing but named Death”.

What is the Dead Sea?

The Dead Sea is a landlocked salt lake flanked by Israel and West Bank (Palestine) on the west and Jordan on the east.

Located at the lowest point on the earth`s surface at 1,412 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea, also known as `Yam ha-Melah` in Hebrew, meaning `Sea of Salt` or `Yam ha-Mavet`, meaning `Sea of Death`, is also the deepest hypersaline lake in the world.

However, the Dead Sea, despite its name, is actually not a sea at all and it`s not dead. It is a lake called `dead` because its extreme salinity creates a harsh environment; hence, no fish or any macroscopic aquatic organisms can survive and flourish in it although a few kinds of simple plants consisting mainly of halophytes (plants that can grow in salty or alkaline soil) are present near the shores aside from bacterias and microbial fungi.

The Dead Sea is naturally endorheic, meaning it does not have an outlet. It is fed mainly by the River Jordan and other small streams, rivers and scarce rain. Water can leave the Dead Sea only when it is evaporated by the hot Middle Eastern sun leaving its salts behind. This explains why the Dead Sea is so salty. However, the Dead Sea is receding at an alarming rate with its surface level dropping more than a meter (3 feet) every year and therefore becoming less deep due to high evaporation rate and the reduction in the flow of Jordan River.

The Dead Sea is a must-visit for any trip to Israel. It has attracted visitors for thousand of years. As mentioned in the Bible the Dead Sea was a place of refuge for King David in his plight from murderous King Saul. The Dead Sea was also one of the world`s first health resorts for Herod the Great of Judea. Queen Cleopatra of Egypt was known to visit the Dead Sea to enhance her beauty by using the lake`s dark mud.

Definitely a memorable experience for us is floating weightlessly in the Dead Sea after indulging in dark mineral mud treatment.

Get dirty! Scoop the black clay-like mud found on the shores and at the bottom of the sea and slather your entire body including your face. In other words, wrap yourself in mud, then rinse and repeat. The Dead Sea mud filled with minerals like magnesium, calcium, potassium, and iron has been scientifically proven to have therapeutic and beauty effects.

You don`t swim in the Dead Sea! You float! We found it impossible not to float; we tried to sink but it was futile. Think about swimming on your back and don`t try to swim face down – just lay back and allow your body to float. The Dead Sea`s unusually high salt concentration with its high density means that you can float easily due to its natural bouyancy – salt water has more bouyancy than fresh water. The saltier the water, the greater its bouyancy.

Salts and minerals in the Dead Sea are used to create cosmetics and skin care products as well. The saline waters and mud of the Dead Sea contain many minerals with medicinal and therapeutic benefits. Founded in 1988, the Ahava Israel Cosmetics Co. is the only cosmetic company licensed by the Israeli government to mine raw materials from the Dead Sea and manufacture skin care products.

The Dead Sea is only a short drive away from Jerusalem (about 39 kms. or 24 miles), either by car or public bus.

So pack your things and visit the Dead Sea before it dries up or changes irrevocably.