Floating around in the Dead Sea

Trip Start May 01, 2010
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Trip End Jul 10, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Jordan  ,
Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Daniel here:

Well you are probably sick of reading after our flurry of blog updates but here goes another one!

We arrived into Amman and stepped outside the airport to a scene of chaos with cars everywhere and beeping horns.  People picking up their friends and loading luggage while blocking in taxis with their drivers cursing and trying to reverse anyway.  We grabbed a taxi and travelled the 35km from the airport to the city of Amman.  We noticed so many fast food places like the usual Maccas, KFC, Pizza Hut and numerous other American takeaways throughout the city.  Jordan has close ties with America which is demonstrated not only in the plethora of fast food but also in their American made military vehicles and the various schools labelled ‘Modern American School’ and ‘School for American Studies’.  The city is not what I would call a modern city but I did see a few sky scrapers in various states of construction amongst the old shops and houses.  The traffic was quite bad although not as bad as Cairo and drivers seemed at least vaguely aware that there were lanes.

Our hotel was an Ibis Hotel which was actually only a year old although the location was not fantastic.  As is the norm in this part of the world we passed through the X-Rays, metal detectors etc every time we walked into the hotel and there were guards on the driveway with huge spike strips across the road which looked like they could stop anything but a tank.  Nice hotel for a cheap price which is what we have come to expect from the Ibis chain and we used the free internet to catch up on the latest episodes of Masterchef.

The hotel staff informed us that there was a ‘famous’ Jordanian restaurant just down the road which we should check out so later on that night we did.  It is only in nice restaurants and airport business lounges that I really notice that I am dressed for travelling and not for presentation so I was a little self conscious walking into the restaurant in my dusty thongs but once you start speaking English the staff welcome you with open arms assuming money is just going to start gushing out of your pockets.

The restaurant was trying to be a traditional Jordanian experience and the tables were all outside under a Bedouin tent complete with old lanterns for light and men dressed as Bedouins offering shishas and Turkish coffee.  We wanted to try some Jordanian food which ended up being much like other Middle Eastern food (hummus, tabbouleh, olives, various breads and grilled meats) but we also got to try a dish called Mansaf which is mutton cooked in fermented dried yogurt.  The taste was not unpleasant though quite bizarre and the mutton was tender though fatty.  I expected the bill to be high because there was so much food and the locals seemed to be quite dressed up but it was less than $40 for the both of us which was a pleasant surprise.

The next day we were finally going to get to see the Dead Sea.  The original plan was to see it in Israel from Jerusalem but it was so expensive and at least a few hours away making it a 10 hour trip overall which at this stage of our travels didn’t appeal.  Visiting the Dead Sea from Amman was a lot easier and simply involved renting a taxi to drive us the 45-55 minutes to the sea.  On the way we were stopped at several checkpoints by the military who asked the driver various questions before letting us through.  One mean looking army man wanted to see all sorts of paper work from our taxi driver and then demanded our passports which we didn’t have on us and are not required for this kind of trip which our driver tried to argue.  It seemed that the soldier wasn’t going to let us through but I offered him our drivers licences and after some more questions in Arabic which we couldn’t answer he waved us through with one last aggressive stare.  Someone was having a bad day!

The drive to the Dead Sea was almost entirely downhill.  It was weird to be driving down such a steep hill for so long but being the lowest point on the earth I guess you have to expect a bit of a slope to get to it.  On the other side of the road I could see dozens of trucks in their lowest gear crawling up the hill which must take them at least an hour.

We arrived at the Dead Sea at a ‘public’ beach called Amman Beach, ‘public’ meaning it only cost $20 each rather than the $50 that the hotels wanted for access to their beaches.  We walked down to the rock shoreline with the sun beating down on us.  We sought out the cool relief of the sea water but it was probably the hottest water I have ever been in (other than hot springs).  The water itself contains so much salt that no marine life at all can live in the sea (hence the obvious name).  Being so salty the water has amazing buoyancy power and it is almost impossible to sink.  We walked out into the water and then sat back.  It was a strange but fun experience to be in water so ‘floaty’.  It was like having an inflatable ring strapped to you could lay on your back with your legs crossed without even beginning to sink.  Swimming on your stomach resulted in an awkward and ugly style of swimming with your legs pushed up in the air behind you and your head poking out of the water like an otters’.  Even in a standing position you could not sink even though your legs were not moving.

The water itself felt almost oily and stung like crazy if you had a cut of any kind (I had given this as an excuse not to shave for the past few days!).  Most people avoided putting their face under but I am perhaps too curious for my own good.  I put on a pair of goggles to see if there was anything too worth seeing underwater (I obviously wasn’t expecting any living creatures) but the thick water resulted in no visibility and all that I got out of it were stinging nostrils and the most disgusting taste in my mouth!

The Dead Sea is known for the amazing properties of it’s mud.  The mineral and salt rich mud of the sea supposably works miracles for your skin and there are people on the shoreline covered in the black mud hoping for some benefit.  People pay a lot of money for mud treatments I thought so scooping up big handfuls of the stuff I covered myself.  Ly took a bit more of a restrained approach but she too was looking pretty black by the time she was finished.  I’m not sure how much good the mud did but it was fun anyway and the rough mud must have taken at least one layer of skin off.

Washing off all the mud and salt we drove back to the hotel where we picked up our luggage and headed for the airport.  As we were flying with Royal Jordanian air which is a OneWorld partner we had access to the business lounge which we took advantage of by eating all their food and using up all their internet bandwidth.  Luckily for us we were upgraded to business class which was a nice surprise and should make the flight a little easier to bear.

Our flight is to Colombo in Sir Lanka and only 6.5 hours although across several time zones.  Jet lag will probably be bad on this leg but we will almost be back on Australian time I think which should help with recovery when we get home.  We are only stopping over in Colombo for one night before flying to the Maldives which has been much anticipated by us.

So we say goodbye to the Middle East and thankfully leave behind Hummus, stomach bugs, 4:30am calls to prayer and 45 degree heat.  We look forward to pork (not beef bacon), great food and cooler weather but will miss the Red Sea, cheap hotels and a unique and ancient part of the world full of history.  When we catch up with you next it won’t be at a Middle Eastern restaurant.  At least not for a while.

I’m typing this on the plane which means our blog is up to date again.  Hopefully you have managed to keep up with the blog and we appreciate all the comments that have been left for us (even if they are full of sarcasm DAX!)  Next entry will probably be from the Maldives!

Anyway time to try and get some sleep.  We are not home just yet so keep in touch!

Daniel + Ly
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Comments

Mum on

Didn't realize there was another entry, oh well I will be even later now. Upgrade great, ideal way to leave the Middle East. Hope you didn't spend all your time on the blog but had time to enjoy business class amenities and have some sleep. Looking forward to pictures from the Maldives, love mum xx

dax on

that mud pic of Dan i glanced at and wondered what that statue was about till i looked closer and noticed it was human! lol

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