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HindustanTimes Thu,18 Dec 2014

Travel

Saline encounters
Kalpana Sunder, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 28, 2010
First Published: 18:39 IST(28/12/2010)
Last Updated: 02:11 IST(29/12/2010)

This may be the lowest point on earth at 422m below sea level, but it’s certainly been the high point of my trip to Jordan! The stark Dead Sea landscape has an otherworldly beauty, almost like a moonscape. It’s enshrouded by a diaphanous haze in the air, created by the high evaporation of salts. I remember my geography lesson of long ago — the Dead Sea is actually a landlocked lake in a rift valley which was formed by a major earthquake. When the incoming rivers and streams reach the Dead Sea, they have nowhere to go and they evaporate, leaving behind a dense mixture of salts and minerals.

The lethal hyper-salinity allows no life to exist here, except some resilient bacteria and algae. The Dead Sea is the place where the pages of the Bible are played out before your eyes. This area was the site of five Biblical cities. Abraham walked here; Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt. In days of yore, the Dead Sea water and salt were imported by nobles in Italy. Asphalt, the bituminous substance rising to the surface, was used for industrial and medicinal purposes, even embalming.

Accommodation 
We stayed at the Mövenpick Resort right on the Dead Sea, a luxurious hotel with stunning views and rooms built like a Moroccan village. The showpiece is the opulent Zara Spa, as big as a theme park — 65,000 sq feet of saline pools, steam rooms, and an Arabic style relaxation room. The Dead Sea was the original spa of the world. The therapeutic nature of its waters and mud has attracted handsome notables like Queen Cleopatra and King Herod! Today, it is a gold mine for beauty and health products: there are some 35-odd healing minerals in the waters which reduce the toxins and inflammation, cure arthritis, eczema and the like. The Dead Sea also has 4-6% more oxygen, so just breathing here makes you more energised.

Staying afloat
Floating in the waters of the Dead Sea is not as easy as it’s made out to be. I gingerly picked my way on the pebbled beach and entered the murky green saline waters. And, mimicking the beauty regime of the ancient royals (much better than Botox), slapped on some of the Dead Sea mud, and emerged feeling rejuvenated and youthful.


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