In Hebrew, signs point to the Salt Sea. But below those letters reads the English no euphemism could touch. The Black Sea ain’t black. The Red sea ain’t red. But the Dead Sea, oh yeah — that pond is fuckin’ deceased.
In fact, the six-foot-under Sea is sinking even deeper. Less than 1,300 feet below sea level in 1970, the dead seashore now sits 1,385 feet below, and continues to recede three feet further every year. But despite the fact that decades ago the sea split into a separate North body and South body, there is one clear winner — your body.
The once submerged cliffside now bubbles in spots with warm mud made gooey by the water that still flows underfoot. Drive down, down, down and out of Jerusalem for a good hour past plaques in Hebrew, Arabic, English and French: “Sea Level”. Watch every beast, plant and rock draw the line and turn back towards more terrestrial climates. Somewhere, the road climbs and the taupe cliffside is carved away. A few cars will mark a spot where people shed clothes and plop into the cloudy gray waters for free spa treatment. Hot tub-sized pools dot the shore — scamper down from wherever you’d like to leave the car. A good marker is the red sign that forbids “staying on the beach after sunset” — that’s the beach you want. Even after sunset.
“Beach”-goers pass floating wine bottles back and forth in the eye-stinging water that boasts eight times more salt than the ocean. One third of the water ain’t water — if you were to scoop out a gallon of sea water, you’d have more than a liter of pure salt. And the muddy tide pools — they’re even worse (better), sitting still in the briny earth. Some pack the finest mud into liter-and-a-half bottles with sawed-off tops. Others buy the same stuff at duty-free.
And they’re oh so warm. As long as you’ve got no cuts from shaving or falling down the rocky path to get there, the thick water feels like the perfect poultice for everything. The kinds of vitamins and minerals only a dermatologist has ever measured just soak in to your every pore at mild bathtub temperature. From there like a tame Scandinavian, run to the January waters of the Dead Sea, strangely fresh and clean by comparison. In the car, you’ll find yourself a salt-encrusted Norwegian salmon, dusty and taut as the salt dries. But one shower later and you’ll peel your outer crust to unearth a layer of skin softer and more flavorfully marinated than you ever thought possible. Or, you know, pack a bottle of water.
At the bottom of the oyster gray canyon, slate spills over onto the rocks. Layers of clay-mud fade — ashen around the pool rim to charcoal under your feet, gunmetal in the obscured light of a cloudy sunset. Tweeze a bit of bone white to make war paint — this is some serious Nature.
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