••• The International Writers Magazine - 22 Years on-line - Dead Sea Strolls
The Water is Burning Me!
“Sababa!” yells the bus when the tour guide asks, “How are you feeling?”
This is the first time I can honestly say I am feeling “great” in the cramped tour bus. There is a noticeable energy in the humid air as we drive to the most highly anticipated part of the trip: The Dead Sea. Faces glued to windows, no one listens as the tour guide tells us predictable facts about the destination.
Visiting the Dead Sea has been a dream of mine since I discovered its healing properties for skin conditions like my Psoriasis. Its high salinity and mineral content have anti-inflammatory properties which supposedly help to alleviate the symptoms. Teetering in and out of reality, I fanaticize about the magic water curing my biggest insecurity. I look out the window at the smooth yet jagged dips of the sea’s vast coastline, shaped by years of erosion and deposition.
Suddenly, the bus stops at a tacky gift shop rather than a mysterious grove. We excitedly shuffle out of the bus, into the gift shop, the only entry to the Dead Sea. The shelves are lined with products from mud to cologne—some don’t even contain Dead Sea minerals. I fill my basket with muds and salts and lotions, hoping these are the cure to my leprosy, plaguing me since my youth. I tote the elixirs out the back door and onto the beach.
The scene is as sublime as I had expected, despite the souvenir shop, plastic beach chairs, and gaggles of tourists taking selfies - none of which you ever see in National Geographic. The horizon is a foggy light blue, making it difficult to decipher where the sea ends, and the sky begins. Salt mounds peak out from the water, turning it foamy. A decade and thousands of miles had once separated me from my dream. Now only 20 feet.
|Following the lead of my Israeli friend, coincidentally named “Israel,” I apply the packets of mud all over my body. As we stare out at the landscape, Israel breaks the silence. “The Dead Sea is about half the size it was 100 years ago. Many blame this on rising temperatures, but locals know the truth. Mining companies extract natural resources from the Dead Sea, without taking any measure to prevent evaporation.”
Sheepishly, I look down at my tote of elixirs turned contraband, embarrassed that I have contributed to this problem. He continues, “experts believe the Dead Sea will dry up by the year 2050.” I begin to feel dirty for wearing the mud, but not for the reason I had expected.
He slips on his flip flops and heads for the water. Barefoot, I follow. As soon as I reach the water, I realize the coastline is jagged vertically. As the salt crystals pierce my feet, I learn the “foamy” salt mounds aren’t as friendly as they look. Imagining the videos I have seen of people walking on flaming coals, I try to channel their calm mentality.
||Proceeding gingerly, I finally reach a safe water level where I can float the rest of the way out to my friends. As I lower myself into the water, I discover the coals were only the prelude for the fire. The areas I had shaved the day before are being torched. I had not expected the water’s anti-inflammatory properties to make my inflammatory condition feel more inflamed than before.
I finally reach my gang of floating otters, none of whom look in pain. Pretending to have a great time, I float on my back with my feet up, imitating the newspaper-reading sunbathers I had seen in the brochures. Carefully avoiding my eyes, I wash the mud off my face, allowing the “soothing” water to rejuvenate my skin. This moment of tranquility doesn’t last long. Basking in the sun had caused the saltwater on my face to sweat down my face, pepper-spraying my eyes.
My body is being charred from outside in.
The Dead Sea gets its name because the salinity content is so high that no organisms can survive. Not wanting to be proof of this, I seek the salvation of land. I walk the same painful path, this time quickly, not concerned with gaining spiritual benefits. I shower off with filtered water, which feels a lot more soothing than the spiritual water of the Dead Sea. As the pain leaves my body, I can practically hear the water extinguishing the fire.
Unrepentantly, I eat an American ice cream, in the shade of a tacky cabana, at the Dead Sea.
© Isabella Miraldi - April 8th 2021
Isabella is currently a student of Dr Bonnie Devet's at the College of Charleston.
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