What it is like to float in the Dead Sea
I never mastered the art of swimming. In fact, I can’t swim. That hasn’t stopped me from getting into bodies of water, though. I’ll gladly get in the ocean and I’ll be fine when a wave inevitably smashes into me and flips me upside down in the surf, giving my sinus cavity a nice saline rinse in the process. I’ll get in lakes and rivers and pools, too. I’m not water-adverse, I just can’t swim.
The good news here is that you don’t need to be able to swim to enjoy the Dead Sea. It’s 33-35% salt, more than eight times saltier than the ocean, so it quite literally pushes you up.
I went last year, while I was deployed. I spent most of my time in Kuwait, but we had team members in Jordan too. Sometimes the Kuwait team was able to visit the Jordan team and help out with various projects.
The first time I went to Jordan, last June, we went to the Dead Sea. It was hot, around 120°F. I didn’t care though. The Dead Sea is 1,400 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest point of dry land on the planet, and visiting it had been on my bucket list for at least the past decade.
One of the easiest ways to visit the Dead Sea in Jordan is to get a room or a day pass at one of the many resorts dotting the sea’s shore, which is exactly what we did. We checked in, dropped our bags in our room and then immediately scampered to the water.
The water of the Dead Sea is thick. It’s not gross, not like jelly or any sort of goo, but it is noticeably thicker than ocean water or any other sort of water I’ve immersed myself in.
It’s a weird feeling, being in the Dead Sea. The water is so salty, so thick and you’re so buoyant in it that it’s a little disconcerting. It’s difficult to keep your legs beneath you. It’s hard to maneuver, really, because the parts of you that are in the water are pushed up and out by the salinity.
In the interest of honesty, I’ll tell you I did flail a bit. Switching positions in the Dead Sea is tricky, especially because you really, really, really don’t want to get any water in your eyes. I did though, of course, manage to splash myself in the face. Grace was never really my strong suit, so there I was, in the Dead Sea, doing this amazing thing I’d been dreaming of for years, except for there’s salt burning my eyeballs. I wasn’t near the shore, my fingers were salt-covered and so I did the only thing I could do – I shut my eyes and cried. Turns out, that’s what salty water does when it gets in your eyes, it makes you fucking cry.
It hurt like a mother fucker, but I also couldn’t stop laughing. It just seemed so ridiculous, that I would find myself halfway around the world in the DEAD SEA, only to splash water in my eyes and spend a solid few minutes crying out the salt.
That life though, I guess. It’s a balance; a little bit of good, a little bit of burning.
Along with eyeballs, the salt will also burn any freshly-shaven skin, so I avoided shaving my legs the day of my Dead Sea adventure. I’d shaved the day before though, and there was still a gentle burn when I first got in the water. I’d recommend avoiding shaving for 48 or so hours before getting in the Dead Sea, just to mitigate the burn-risk.
And then there’s the mud. It’s a whole thing. It’s full of minerals and is apparently great for your skin. When we visited, the resort had a giant vat of it on the beach, free for guests to smear all over themselves. So we did.
Burning bits aside, visiting the Dead Sea was incredible. I went to Jordan three times and saw the Dead Sea each time and it never lost its magic. I was awed by it, whether I got in the sea or just drove along its shores. It’s a special place, for sure, and a unique environment. And it’s beautiful, even on the hazy hot days of June and especially at sunset in December.