People thought we were crazy to go to the Middle East in July (it is HOT), but we couldn’t help ourselves. We had the time and the inclination. The plane tickets were cheap ($350 USD return). And we wanted to float in the Dead Sea. So the heat was really of no consequence. Besides, the Dead Sea is one of those things that I had to experience to believe. The science is there -the unusually high salt content of the water ensures that even a non-swimmer like me can float effortlessly- but even at the best of times I am a grand skeptic (and a huge scaredy cat).
After long days of walking and discovery in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, we made our way south, to the Negev Desert, where we would later take a dip in the Dead Sea and hike up the rock plateau known as Masada. Here, in the south of Israel, the heat is aggressive, stifling, relentlessly dry. The sun is white heat. Your skin burns, you don’t dare put your bare foot on the scalding earth beneath you. Random palm trees sprout incongruously from barren-looking plains and our bodies cast long black shadows.
The Dead Sea is big and spans Israel and Jordan, which means that there are many different points in a journey in which one can take a dip. However, we chose to do it here, close to the border crossing into Aqaba, Jordan, our next destination.
After a three hour bus ride from Jerusalem, we disembarked near Masada and headed to our accommodation, the Masada Guest House. The heat and lack of air con on the bus ride down meant that we were feeling poorly, but our spirits were immediately lifted when entered and saw the views from the hotel. We rested for a moment in the cool comfort of our room.
But there was no time to sit around and luxuriate. We had to hustle to catch another bus to the town of Ein Bokek, home to a stretch of the Dead Sea. Twenty minutes later, we hopped off the bus and there she was in all her glory:
I should mention that the beach was practically empty- the insufferable heat at this time of year dissuades many tourists from exploring the region.
Liebling jumped in without an afterthought but I tentatively toed the water. This being the desert in the heat of summer (it was mid-July and the heat was intolerable) the Dead Sea was not only dead but nearly scalding as well. It was disconcerting to say the least: I liken the sensation to baking in a sauna then dipping your foot into a vat of molten lava. Far from charming. Still, you can’t get this close and not get in so after a bit more hemming and hawing I set about testing my Dead Sea float. It was great fun, though the temperature of the water meant we couldn’t stay in for very long.
A tip for taking a dip in the Dead Sea: take extreme care not to get any water in your eyes! Liebling (foolishly) put his under the water and had a bit of an “episode”- the copious amount of salt in the water WILL burn! It’s also worth a mention that I had shaved my legs and bikini area that same morning and the salt also stung.
People will tell you not to travel to the Middle East in the summer… and perhaps they are right. It is sweltering, the heat is unforgiving. Still, if you can handle it, it’s well worth the journey.
Where’s the hottest place you’ve ever been? And do you shy away from travelling to certain places at certain times of the year because they are too hot or too cold? Where?