21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
Politics & Living
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Reviews & stories

The International Writers Magazine: World Travel with Hacktreks:

A Dead Sea journey
Marwan Asmar

Every time I go to the Dead Sea, I find things have changed. The first time I visited the Dead Sea was in the summer of 1992. Aside from one rest house, there was precious little, aside from a small village, the blue salty sea, and long winding road that kept going to Aqaba.

Recently, our family, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, aunts, and the children, packed our belongings in one of the Amman suburbs, and made our way to the Dead Sea. We were all an extended family, seeking to encourage domestic tourism!

The drive took us around 45 minutes of light cruising, with the temperature up as we descended to the lowest point of earth. On either side, and in between rolling patches of desert, there were awesome mountains, looking majestically on the horizon. As we reached into the flat surface area to the shores of the Dead Sea, the mountains become austere, sedimentary and rugged reflecting an almost jumbled up terrain of the past.

Because of Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel in 1994, things changed dramatically. Today posh international 5-Star hotels dominate the beaches. These were built within the last 10 or so years to attract international tourists, to come and lush, expand and twist their bodies in the salt, special mud-water of the Dead Sea while seeking to enjoy the rest of Jordan.
The Dead Sea is a historical marvel rooted in religious doctrine and belief about the area being once inhabited by a community that dared to disobey God, the Almighty, and follow prohibitive practices like sodomy, and that’s why it was turned upside down and a sea instituted in its place.

Besides that, the Dead Sea is a strategic area to the Bethany Beyond Jordan, where Jesus was supposed to have been baptized, it is near Mosaic Madaba and Mt Nebo where Mosses viewed the Holy Land, to Amman, Petra and of course Aqaba, down the highway.

With the auspicious King Hussein Convention Center, the places for 100s of meetings a year, including major international meets as the biannual World Economic Forum, the Dead Sea was transformed into a major tourist attraction.
On one side of the road, there is Sweimeh, a village today benefiting from the touristic infrastructure. For one thing, Sweimeh has come to serve as a pool of labor for the hotels and has revived the village through the tall structures being built there.

Before the development that took place, you could park anywhere, and dip your feet along the loose promenades if you can find the sand and the water in between the scraggy rocks. The Dead Sea beaches were rudimentary, in need of sand-combing.

This time, it was different, the beach fronts, save those that belong to the hotels, have become more organized with convenient facilities of public bathrooms, showers, restaurants, shops, and tables and chairs amidst smooth stretches of sand.

We were dismayed at the JD 3 entrance charge and prepared to move further down the road, but in the end paid and quickly huddled to the water, and glad to use the clean public lavatories which previously were a hard find.

Since we got in at around 5:30, our party wanted to avail themselves of every opportunity of the cool water. The mid-July temperature stood at 40 degrees centigrade, it was hot, it pleasantly bit us but no one cared.

My sister painted her son in mud, his back and legs, ordering him like a sergeant-major to stay in the shallow water, my aunt wanted to dip her feet and legs, while my wife stood watching with her brown sandals with mud oozing from her toes. With crisp walks in between the water, and the beach, she surveyed the land-sea-sky horizons with diligent strides that capped her age.

It was a strange feeling of a heat wave that almost covered our horizons, seeing bobbing men, women and children too concerned with what they wanted to do rather than care of what the neighbors were thinking.
Sweat was pouring from my forehead down my face and at the back of my spine, the hair was wet, and every time, I would pour some fresh water into my galloping throat, it was a delicious feel of a mixture of contrasts with salt on my limbs and trousers that made my eyes burn.

The Dead Sea is incredible, it’s rugged, as if you live in a back century despite the modernization and flash. My seven-year-old son and his cousin tried to splash, but they were quickly told not to because of the salt that would sting their eyes. Once in, you are surrounded by water infested with thick salt that corrugate to produce rock formations that are very difficult to break, these pimpled your feet, and that’s why you needed some kind of protection.

At one point, it was almost like a steam bath. Having taking my shoes and socks off, the earth, mingled with salt, mud, sand was scorching hot and almost beat the souls of my feet to the extent I needed to get in the water to cool off, but by then I started to dig unwillingly into the water. In put my hand, gulped a piece of mud and put it on the side, and it was literally piping hot.

People were everywhere on the beach, sun-bathing, dressed up, sitting on chairs, some eating, and some watching beyond the horizon, watching what used to be Palestine, and now Israel, in the evening streamlined by lights through its colonial-settlement formations, put there to protect its security.

Families huddle together dipping themselves into the water. Some went in trunks, few dared it in bikinis, some just slighted lifted their black abayas, long dresses and Jelbabs. People were standing, some sitting, others on their backs floating at a snail’s pace with the current gently pushing them whilst enjoying the steaming humid air of the sun and the deep blue sky.

Along you can see old ladies sitting in chairs in the water, no doubt their feet kicked in the mud, while the water reaching up to their ankles. The water rejuvenates the muscles and exhilarates the limbs.

I was told in one hotel, the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, which is one of the beach hotels started in the early 1990s, specializes in mud health treatments with experts from abroad to lean down those stiff bodies, ankles and thighs.

Oh yes, whilst in water I saw the bikini-line women, the ones you see in pictures when the subject of mud baths come up. She was covered in mud from head to toe, from the face right down, excluding the chest of course and the bikini bottom. It was kind of strange because many are used to seeing skin, tight or saggy, and not a bikini-clad bar of mud chocolate.
Still the Dead Sea mud is good for your skin, everyone said so. Standing next to my wife, sitting down actually, I saw two young teenage girls from nowhere, they were vivacious, pure skin, untouched by the mud which gave me memory flashbacks of my 1970s days on Hastings beach in the UK.

My wife caught me staring but I was actually distracted by my steaming glasses and the hotness of the situation. As you grow older, the wear and tear of looking into the computer screen takes their toll, and you start to descent into an archaic physical and mantle oblivion where imagination is better than action. I told my wife, "I remember you when you were in your early 20s" with her replying "I still have what it takes".

Two-mid career fogies that still think of today as if it was yesterday, they substitute the physical for the imaginary with occasional practice of winks and nods, and symbolic techniques that redeem our true selves through stiff upper lip and slurping behavior.

My brother in law had to look the other way, but was caught by his wife, who stopped talking to him. They were a good deal younger than us and the question of jealousy was still more nuptial for them.

One little guy enjoyed himself tremendously, my three-year-old nephew. After getting caught in the sweaty heat, he moved to one shower on the beach being helped by one of the maids, who had her hand on the water catch for the next 20 minutes, so the little guy can have streaming water roll down over his young body.

She was wrenched in water, but may have liked it as well, getting soaked through the heat and a brief subliminal hooray for her mundane chores of housekeeping among screaming kids.

It was sunset by now, around 7:30, we shifted our positions further to the blue water, surrounded by tufts of grass. Here, it seemed hotter, more humid, it was a wrong move because the water actually generated whiffs of air that hit you face in the face, or so according to my wife who was somewhat agitated by the move.

The journey to the Dead Sea was pleasant. On the way back to Amman the sun was dipping into the horizons and evening was setting in. The temperature then stood at 38 centigrade but started to slide as our car ascended the hills of Jordan into Amman.

On top of one mountain, the temperature dropped to 27 centigrade, and with it we melted into the coolness of the air. Thank God, we thought, car air conditioners turned off, windows opened. It’s always better to feel the natural air rather than the synthetic stuff. Till next time!

© Marwan Asmar August 2008

Jordan’s Azraq Wetland, a heaven for ecotourists
Marwan Asmar
It was 6:15 in the morning, there was a chill in the air but the dew and the mist were intertwining with the brilliant sunshine.
JITOA juggles more than one ball
Marwan Asmar
Business Associations are a new buzzword in Jordan’s corporate world of finance.
Hiking Ajloun
Marwan Asmar

Looking up into the sky, it was pitch black, to the east directly, you see the faded lights of Bissan, the Palestinian town that is now under Israeli rule and jurisdiction.

More world destinations


© Hackwriters 1999-2008 all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility - no liability accepted by or affiliates.