1st Nov 2012 by Hoo Ban Khee –
Jordan boasts of hundreds of iconic religious sites for both Christians and Muslims, spectacular desert landscape, massive Roman ruins and Jordanians’ warm hospitality. Among them, the Dead Sea earns a special place due to its historical and spiritual legacy.
As I was floating in the Dead Sea, I could see that multi-million-dollar hotel resorts being built on the shores overlooking the sea which spans 80km long and 18km wide with Israel sharing it on the eastern side.
The tourists were busy swimming, smearing mud over their bodies or simply snapping pictures. As I struggle to float face-up, it was hard to image that this is the site of five biblical cities: Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zeboiim and Zoar.
We are familiar with Sodom and Gomorrah which were destroyed by God because of its sin. Indeed, the Jordanians said they have discovered Lot’s Cave near the Dead Sea where he hid with his two daughters as they fled from the burning cities. They said to have even discovered a stone formation which could be Lot’s wife as she was turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back, against God’s instruction, at the burning cities.
The sea water was bitterly salty and could be painful if it gets into your eyes. Thus, while you try to float – it’s easy if you can hold your body in balance – make sure that you don’t let the water get into your eyes. Of course after some practices, one can try all kinds of stance to show off to friends on video clips.
If you want to try the mud bath and hope to get a few years off your look, there is a mud stand where people just dig their hands into a mud tub near the shire and scoop up the mud for a facial session – for free.
There were some Ukrainians, Canadians and locals. But there were not as many swimmers as I have expected, at least not in the area around my hotel. Nonetheless, I was told, the spa and massage centre at the health club was fully booked!
The Dead Sea is 400 metres below sea level and is the largest natural spa in the world and the lowest point on the earth surface. And the concentration of oxygen is supposed to be 8 per cent higher than elsewhere in the world.
While today it is promoted more a tourist spot, it was around the Dead Sea where God spoke to men, where God gave the 10 Commandments to Moses, where Job was tested and was rewarded for his faith, where Jacob wrestled with the angel of God and where Jesus was baptized by John.
Besides the mineral rich waters of the sea, the black mud from the sea bed is said to have rejuvenating effect on aging skin. It has also been processed and packed into a wide range of cosmetic products.
But alas, the water level of the Dead Sea is dropping by about one foot a year. It was predicted that the sea may dry up by the year 2050. Jordanians are talking about diverting water from the Red Sea which will be a multi-billion dollar undertaking.
(The writer, a retired journalist, spent 10 days up and down of Jordan, courtesy of Royal Jordanian Airline, Jordan Tourism Board and Aspen Holidays. This is an excerpt of his article which appeared in the Star recently. He worships at the Metro Tabernacle in Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur. His email address – email@example.com)