Saturday, December 09, 2006

Float To The Bottom

Yesterday was my birthday. And in a break from the tradition of this trip I wasn't on some long horrible journey; instead my mother took me out to a rather swanky restaurant. I know it was a classy place because they had waiters. Honestly, I've been making my own food and eating at street stalls and dodgy establishments (the word restaurant doesn't even come close) that I'm not sure whether I know how to act properly in "polite" society. Though in the end I think I managed not to embarrass my mother too much.

Anyway, last year I visited the Tarim Depression in western China, the second lowest point on earth. But those of you who know me will know that second place is just not good enough and so today I went to the Dead Sea, which lies at a staggering 420m below sea level (and it continues to fall every year). The sea (or is it a lake?) is famous for having such a high salt content that allows you to float effortlessly on its surface (the high salt content is also the reason for the sea's name because nothing can survive the inhospitable conditions). Well of course I had to give it a go. Taking my first tentative steps the water didn't seem any different from ordinary water and I thought I would be disappointed. But after getting knocked over by a wave I discovered that, indeed, I didn't sink. It was the strangest feeling as my brain, conditioned by countless watery escapades, was telling me that I should be sinking when I clearly wasn't. The water felt like water: just as wet and just as liquid, but at a certain point it just wouldn't let me down any further no matter how hard I tried. Probably a good thing too as you really wouldn't want to put your head under that water as it is the second foulest thing I have tasted so far on this trip (after peyote) and it would possibly cause your eyes to shrivel up. Still, people claim that the water has a myriad therapeutic benefits and so the shore is thronged by upmarket hotels offering deluxe spa treatments. Even the public beach has a gift shop selling overpriced "beauty products", such as half a litre of Dead Sea water for the bargain price of $4, or some mud (for facepacks) for $15. Locals, of course, aren't duped and bring their own bottles to scoop up the foul sludge for free. You don't want to spend too long in the spooky water and so I spent most of my time watching Jordanians out for the weekend. The thing that you immediately notice is that most women, though not required to by law, wear hijab, even when taking a dip. Something I, personally, wouldn't recommend for the Dead Sea. You see, after taking a paddle you have to immediately take a shower or be left covered in horrible, salty gunk. The stuff is particularly difficult to get out of clothes as you can see from the picture below. But just because they're Muslim doesn't mean they can't have a good time and so there's beach football and singing and dancing as the sun sets behind the West Bank.

P.S. As a small birthday present to you, my readers, I have finally got my act together and put some more pictures up on my photo album from my trip from Iran up until now (follow the link on the left of my website).

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