Dead Sea - The Lowest Point on Earth
What is the Dead Sea?
The Dead Sea is a salt lake between the Palestine and Israel to the west, and Jordan to the east. It is said to be the lowest point on Earth, at 420 metres (1,378 ft) below sea level; its shores are actually the lowest point on dry land, as there are deeper points on Earth under water or ice. At 330m deep (1,083 feet), the Dead Sea is the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. It is also the world's second saltiest body of water, after Lake Asal in Djibouti. With 30 percent salinity, it is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. Experts say it is nine times saltier than the Mediterranean Sea (31.5% salt versus 3.5% for the Mediterranean). The Dead Sea is 67 kilometres (42 mi) long and 18 kilometres (11 mi) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. Biblically, it was a place of refuge for King David. It was one of the world's first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers.
Tourism in the Dead Sea
On the Jordanian side, the Dead Sea is possible as a day trip from Amman. Tourist areas are accessible from a main road that runs along the eastern side of the body of water and connects to Jordan's Desert Highway running to Amman. Highways leading to the Dead Sea are clearly marked by brown tourist signs. It is an ambitious 3-hour drive from Aqaba in southern Jordan.
Taxi services for travel to the Dead Sea can be purchased for the day. Many of the local hotels and resorts have shuttles that travel from Amman to the Dead Sea for a small fee. There are a handful of bus lines that also run from Amman on a daily basis.
The cost to enter the public beach varies from 10 Jordanian Dinar (JD) in the summer months to 5 JD in off peak months. Many hotels also sell day passes that include full use of hotel facilities as well as their Dead Sea beachfronts; at the Movenpick Resort, day passes cost 20 JD per person.
A few things to keep in mind...
- Due to the hypersalination of the water, one can float with ease in the Dead Sea; in fact, it is nearly impossible to sink! A popular fad by visitors is to have their picture taken while read a newspaper and floating on the surface of the water.
- The mud at the shore of the Dead Sea contains many minerals and is believe to have medicinal and theraputic benefits. It is not uncommon for visitors to cover their bodies with the dark mud.
- There are many salt deposits and chrystals scattered along the shoreline. Many visitors walk the beach in search of large pieces as souveniers.
- The water of the Dead Sea has a greasy feel to it.
- Wear waterproof sandals. The salt is very jagged and can easily cut your feet
- Beware! Several people drown every year in the Dead Sea because they do not obey the rule: Only float on your back. Accidents happens when someone tries to swim normally (stomach first) in the water - the legs will float better than usual and the head will be submerged. Also, the salt in the water stings cuts and causes great pain if it comes in contact with the eyes, adding to the panic if one's head is under water.