MIDDLE EAST: MAD ABOUT DEAD SEA MUD, JORDAN
by Julia Dimon
Slathered head to toe in mud, with only the whites of my eyes and a bit of pink bikini showing, I looked like a swamp monster. Since Dead Sea mud has natural medicinal properties that rid the body of toxins, it leaves the skin feeling smooth and healthy
Standing on the shore of the Dead Sea, I dipped my hand into a bucket, pulled out a clump of dark sludgy mud and smeared it all over my face. Apparently this was the thing to do when visiting the Dead Sea, a body of water shared by both Jordan and Israel.
Since Dead Sea mud has natural medicinal properties that rid the body of toxins, it leaves the skin feeling smooth and healthy. This free beauty treatment was just what I needed after trekking through Jordan’s many dusty archeological sites.
As I painted my exposed white skin with watery black mud, there was a flutter of excitement. I felt like a child who’s done something forbidden and can’t wait to get caught.
Slathered head to toe in mud, with only the whites of my eyes and a bit of pink bikini showing, I looked like a swamp monster. With time to kill until my full-body mask dried, I took a few photos commemorating my muddy metamorphosis. After fifteen minutes, I showered and looked human once again.
Post mud, I joined a dozen other sunbathers in the healing waters of the famous Dead Sea. The lowest point on earth, it's actually a lake, not a sea. Due to its obscene levels of salt, this natural spa is totally devoid of marine life. It is this salt content which causes bathers to bob in the water like wine corks.
‘Swimming’ in the Dead Sea is really a strange sensation. Lying on your stomach, your feet pop out of the water, you feel off-balance and are forced to doggy-paddle. Lying on your back, it’s as if you’re on an inflatable mattress. In either position, you can’t really swim, you just float.
Though I could almost braid my leg hair, I was warned not to shave before entering the water. Thanks to those high salt levels, every little cut, blister or scrape stings like a swarm of wasps. I experienced this first-hand when I splashed water into my own eye. Man, did it burn.
A buoyant friend double-dog dared me to taste the water. Never one to shy away from a dare, I stuck out my tongue and lapped it up. My face contorted. “Ew-urgh-blah,” I sputtered, punctuating my disgust with a manly spit. The taste was so indescribably vile; I wished for water-in-the-eye instead.
Lesson learned: Dead Sea water is for floating, not for eyes or tastebuds. With two handicapped senses, I dragged my silky smooth skin out of the water, ordered a cold beer and watched the sun set over the Promised Land.
The Jordanian side of the Dead Sea is apparently less expensive and less populated than the Israeli side. Visit see-jordan.com for more information on Jordan.
Julia Dimon is a freelance writer, travel columnist with Metro Newspapers and host of a TV travel show launching on OLN in 2008. Her web site is www.thetraveljunkie.ca