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The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is a landlocked salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel to the west. It is located 430.5 metres (1,412 feet) below sea level in the Jordan Rift Valley, the lowest point on earth, and receives nearly all its water from its main tributary, the Jordan River. The Judean desert, where jeep safari tours often explore the desert landscape, descends here. This area is a major tourist destination in Jordan and Israel, with travellers attracted by its warm, mineral-rich, salty water—so salty that anyone can easily float in the Dead Sea.

Aerial view of the Dead Sea at sunset

This amazing lake’s salinity is unusually high at around 30-35%, compared to 3% in other bodies of saltwater. This salinity also gives it the high density that keeps bathers floating on the water.

This lake in the lowest place on Earth is called “dead” precisely because the high salt content prevents fish and aquatic plants from living in it. The fish that the Jordan river carries with it dies quickly in the Dead Sea, though microorganisms such as bacteria and algae survive. The lake also supports birds that pass through the desert during their migrations.

It has been called the Dead Sea since the Hellenistic Age, circa 323 BC. In the Hebrew Bible, Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by fire, were two cities located on this lake. Beside the lake, in Masada, Israel, Herod the Great locked himself in a fortress during the Parthian siege in 40 BC. Masada was also besieged by the Roman Empire decades later. (In modern times, you can take a tour of Masada and the desert over the Dead Sea via cable car.)The Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient manuscripts first found in archaeological digs in 1947 and dating from the 3rd century BC, were discovered in caves near Qumran, northwest of the lake. The Biblical significance of the lake extends to the Jordan River, where Jesus Christ was said to have been baptised by John the Baptist.

There are small communities and a nature reserve near the lake, as well as resort hotels serving travellers. The shores of the Dead Sea are rocky, so you’d be hard-pressed to find a public beach. It is advisable to find a private hotel or resort so you can have access to a shower and fresh water.

View of a resort on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea

On the Jordanian side, a highway (Highway 65, located at 393 metres below sea level) runs past the lake to the port of Aqaba. Jordan tours usually include this with a visit to the ancient city of Petra, located between the lake and the Red Sea. On the Israel side, a drive from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea is only about two hours, depending on traffic, giving travellers ample time to visit after a tour of the Holy Land including wonders such as the Western Wall. You can expect the same driving time from Jordan’s capital, Amman on your group tour.

On a tour of the Dead Sea, you can stay in a spa hotel and enjoy bathing in the lake, followed by a therapeutic mud bath. Dead Sea water and its black mud are said to have minerals that can have positive effects on the skin and the body, a boon for sufferers of psoriasis, acne, chronic back pain, and arthritis.

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

Articles about Jordan published by Odyssey Traveller

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External articles to assist you on your visit to Jordan