Sorry for the break in posting, but I began the year with a two-week tour of Israel. Why Israel? Why not? I learned a lot about history, religion and the current political climate on this tour (plus had some fun and did a lot of shopping). Look for more detailed posts later about this country, which was not exactly what I expected.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a taste of this trip, our visit to Ein Gedi Spa on the Dead Sea, and enduring one of life’s most embarrassing moments – appearing in public in a bathing suit – for the sake of adventure.
The Dead Sea is a closed sea, which means it receives fresh water but doesn’t lose it except through evaporation. It is 10 times saltier than any other sea and 50 minerals remain after evaporation, which is why it’s so popular for people to visit for their health. You can’t swing a stray cat (of which there are many in Israel) without hitting a shop that sells Dead Sea bath and body products.
The drive on Route 90 to get to Ein Gedi is picturesque – beautiful multicolored sea on one side, brown desert on the other. Across the Dead Sea are the Moab Mountains, which are actually in Jordan.
Ein Gedi means “spring of the goat” (the area is populated with the Ibex, a type of goat). The spa used to sit right on the Dead Sea, but the sea has receded quite a bit, so there is a large swath of sand and salt between the spa and where the shore now begins.
When our tour group arrived, there was initially mass confusion about what we should do. Should we get a locker? Rent a towel? Where should we go to float in the sea? A hint: if you rent a locker or towel with US Dollars, which are accepted widely in Israel, they will rebate you part of the fee when you leave, but they will give you Shekels, the Israeli currency. My friend and I brought hotel towels and decided to risk not renting a locker.
Eventually those of us who wanted to swim in the sea found the locker rooms and changed. Then we walked outside and down a ramp to a tram that took us down to the sea (bring a coverall).
The beach was all salt (as it used to be part of the sea floor) and the floor of the sea was very sharp, hard salt formations. Come prepared with footwear you can wear into the sea.
One member of our tour group agreed to watch our valuables and another agreed to take pictures, so my friend and I braved looking ugly in our swimsuits and in front of everyone, stepped into the sea – and floundered.
It was tough to walk on the dried salt floor, I kept losing my flip flops and falling, cutting my hands on the salt rocks. It was kind of like walking through thickened water; it felt different than wading in a pool or a lake. It was tricky to walk, challenging to swim on your stomach, difficult to turn over and easiest just to float on your back with your head and toes sticking up in the air.
The current carried you swiftly back to shore as you float there. It was fun and relaxing.
The whole experience was over way too soon – 15 minutes maybe, then I felt and tasted salty until I could shower off back in the locker room (although there were some outdoor showers there to rinse off initially).
There is an area within walking distance of the spa lobby where you can sit in the mud baths, which you can see as you pass by in the tram. That is also included in the spa fee, as is an indoor sauna and mineral baths. There is also a large gift shop with the requisite Dead Sea products for sale (which I think are wonderful, by the way; my skin has never felt so silky smooth in winter).