Jordan Day 3: Dead Sea Relaxation

In my books, floating in the Dead Sea is currently right up there with the experience of seeing the aurora borealis—if not tied for first place, then it sits at a very close second.  Floating effortlessly is so magical—I did not want it to end.  And now, I’m already planning to go back.
Petra to Aqaba to Dead Sea

Our 450km drive from Petra to Dead Sea because of putting in the wrong address in the GPS

ROAD TO SAUDI ARABIA THE DEAD SEA

e planned to spend our third and last full day in Jordan at the Dead Sea.  We anticipated that we will be tired from all the touring, walking, and hiking that a full day spent lounging by the pool would be the perfect end to our trip.  We booked the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, a five-star resort at the Dead Sea hotel strip to add a bit of luxe to our day of R & R.

We were spot-on in anticipating that we will be tired.  By the time that we got to the Kempinski, we were absolutely exhausted from the two days of touring, walking, hiking, and—drumrolls pleasedriving.  In two days, KD drove close to 800km which is 200km more than what’s needed.  Why?  Because of yours truly.  Allow me to impart a very valuable lesson to the world:  When you search for a hotel in the GPS, make sure to scrutinize the search results.

Sometimes, hotels have the exact same names
but are located in different cities very far from each other.

Don’t just pick the first item in the search results otherwise, you might add 200km to your drive.  Clearly, this is what happend to us… because of me.  :(  A three-hour drive turned to five hours.  Typically, this is not an issue, but we started driving just as the sun was setting and there are a quite a number of things to be concerned about when driving at night in Jordan,  e.g. no street lights, 18-wheelers, road closures, detours, etc.

We made it to the hotel safe close to 11pm.  We were exhausted, hungry, but extremely excited for the next day.

STEPS TO THE LOWEST POINT ON EARTH

The Kempinski Hotel Ishtar is a little piece of paradise.  I walked around the hotel first thing in the morning and counted at least five pools.  During breakfast my husband and I debated on which pool to go to first and how to divide our limited time across all five pools plus the Dead Sea itself.  By the time we were done with breakfast (stuffed and content, if I may add), we decided to de-prioritize the pools and focus on the headliner of the day: the Dead Sea.

Kempinski Hotel Ishtar has a private beach with direct access to the Dead Sea.  Based on our research, the instructions to enjoy the Dead Sea are pretty straightforward:

  • Do not dive.  
  • Protect eyes and mouth from water.
  • Try to swim on your back.

But when we got to the Kempinski beach front, the instructions are far more interesting:

  1. Take a dip in the Dead Sea for 20 minutes.
  2. Apply mud directly on your skin.
  3. Let the mud dry for 30 minutes or until it hardens.
  4. Go back to the sea to wash off the mud completely.

It was no contest—we’re going for the mudpack route!

Kempinski Hotel Ishtar's private beach access

Kempinski Hotel Ishtar’s private beach access

Salt-covered rocks by the shore

Salt-covered rocks by the shore

STEP 1: FLOAT AND FROLIC

Nothing would have prepared me for the experience of ‘swimming’ in the Dead Sea.  I struggle as I write this now trying to find the right words to describe how incredible it is.  Anyone who looks up the Dead See online will find the usual results: Lowest point on Earth.  Really salty.  You’ll float.  And repeat.  Then there’s the ubiquitous photo of people reading a book while floating.

Nothing I’ve read came close to close to suggesting how amazing the experience is.

But allow me to try.

It was close to noon when we went down to the beach.  With the sun high up, the sand was hot to the touch.  And when I dipped my foot into the water, I realized it was warm, as well—not like a thermal bath, but definitely much warmer than the beaches we’ve been to in Canada, Europe, and even Mexico.

Immediately, I noticed the salt-covered rocks by the shore.  I bent down to scoop some water with my hands and when I rubbed my thumb and forefinger together, I felt some powdery residue—salt, I thought.  I also noticed how there were no waves.  The Dead Sea was so still and calm as far as my eyes could see—hazy, milky in the distance.

Being the better swimmer, I went in before my husband.  I walked about knee deep into the water, turned my back to the sea, crouched down, then pushed back with my feet gently to slowly get myself into the water.

And just like magic, with no work required from me, I started to float on my back.  

For the first few minutes I ‘tested’ the water; I tried to stand to see how deep the water was but it was just impossible—the water kept ‘pushing’ me up.  I also checked how much balancing was required; it actually took a lot of effort for me to turn on my belly, and as long as I kept my head above the water, there was no danger of getting any water in my eyes, which is apparently an extremely painful ordeal according to KD who got some in his eyes later that day.

After a few minutes of getting used to the water, I finally relaxed all the muscles in my body… and let go.

Floating in the Dead Sea is the ultimate relaxation.
There was absolutely zero effort required for me to stay afloat.
The most work that my body did the whole time was breathe in and out
and occasionally squint from the glare of the sun.

For I don’t know how long, KD and I floated, played in the water, and just relaxed in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea.  Here’s a very short, silly video of our first few minutes in the Dead Sea:

Laughing and loving the experience of effortlessly floating in the Dead Sea

Laughing and loving the experience of effortless floating

'Lounging' at the Dead Sea

‘Lounging’ in the Dead Sea

STEP 2: THE MUD PACK

Jar of mud at Kemp

The jar of mud (Image from colspaghetti.org)

At the top of the stairs is a big stone-jar of mud.  The mineral-rich mud, combined with the Dead Sea water, is supposed to provide a long list of benefits to your skin and body including:

  • Exfoliate dead skin cells and thereby exposing younger, fresher skin
  • Absorb oil and get rid of dirt and toxins
  • Relieve muscles of stress and pain
  • Stimulate blood circulation giving your skin a better tone and radiant glow

People with cuts or wounds should skip this.  I had a bit of sunburn and the mud stung slightly.  I can only imagine how painful it would be for a cut or wound.

In front of the full-body mirrors that Kempinski provided in the mud pack area, we slapped on the mud on ourselves and each other making sure we’ve covered everything.  Giggles and laughter rang from everyone around the jars of mud; the combination of seeing each other transform into very bad versions of the usually elegant and classic black moor figurine, and holding the wet, gooey mud and slapping it on each other proved to be quite a fun experience.

Applying mud at Kempinski Dead Sea

Mud application begins

Fully covered in mud

The finished product

STEP 3: DRY, MUD, DRY!

Once we’re all covered in mud, the next step was easy: relax and let the mud dry.  At first, we thought staying under the sun will do the trick.  But this proved to be wrong—the mud absorbed so much heat that we started to sweat which made the mud run more.  So we sat still under the shade instead.

Drying the mud pack

So this is how clay pots feel…

Cracked mud on skin

Cracked mud on my arm—a good indication that it’s starting to dry

STEP 4: BACK IN THE DEAD SEA

After about half an hour, I was fully dry and back in the Dead Sea to wash off the mud.  I had some alone time as KD simply could not stop sweating so his mud took longer to dry.  Actually, the mud didn’t cake at all; he just got very jealous so he went back in.

Floating in the Dead Sea

The position we came up with as we shut out the world while floating in the Dead Sea

We took a few more photos and then packed our camera away.  For what felt like hours, my husband and I lay next to each other as the world drifted away just as we floated along.  We came up with a special position where our heads lay on each others’ arms.  I felt so safe in the calm water, right next to my husband, that I even dozed off for a few minutes.

Later that afternoon our relaxation was disrupted by a very loud growling sound—from our stomachs.  Hunger, thus, took us out of the sea and back to land.  I watered off all the salt water from my noticeably softer and suppler skin, and gave the water a quick ‘see you later.’  With the incredibly enjoyable experience that I just had, I knew it was not going to be my last time at the Dead Sea.

Over dinner later that evening, my husband and I started contemplating on how and when we can go back.  We have no definite dates yet but Jordan definitely made it to our very short list of places that we want to return to every year; right now that list just has Canada (our home) and Rome (because it’s Rome!)—and that’s quite an achievement.

Personally, I rank my experience high up in the list of amazing things we’ve seen and done in our travels.

In my books, floating in the Dead Sea is currently right up there with the experience of
seeing the aurora borealis—if not tied for first place, then it sits at a very close second.  

When we go back, we’ll visit other spots that we missed; we’ve seen the key areas in Madaba and Petra, but there’s still Jerash, Wadi Rum, Karak, Dana, and so much more.  With the reliable sunny weather in Jordan and the just as sunny Jordanians, combined with a good ol’ GPS, a rented car, and a kilo of baklavas, I’m certain it will be another amazing trip.

Mud washing off in the Dead Sea

A selfie shot as the mud washed off

Waiting for the mud to dry

KD still waiting for his mud pack to dry

Floating in the Dead Sea

KD floating away from the shore, and away from the worries of the world even for just a brief moment—ultimate relaxation is the gift of the Dead Sea to us

IMPORTANT PLANNING NOTES FOR YOUR TRIP TO THE DEAD SEA:

  • Do not shave several days before your swim.  You will feel even the smallest cut or wound on your skin once you get in the water.  In addition, try to be extra careful leading up to your Dead Sea trip so you don’t get paper cuts or any wounds.  I got itchy the night before and started scratching my leg and the Dead Sea reminded me in a very cruel way to never scratch so roughly again.
  • Try to have footwear on.  So what if I looked like a dork with my flip flops on?  Some people cut themselves from the rocks or the salt and when that happens, that’s pretty much the end of your Dead Sea dip.  Try to protect your feet if possible.
  • Wear your older swim suits.  The salt water may discolour whatever you wear.
  • Bring your sunnies.  Laying on your back with no reason to ‘get up,’ you will want to protect your eyes from the sun.
  • Plan your photo or bring a waterproof camera.  You may want to bring a prop (not a book, I beg you), or just have have a simple photo taken as you float along but the key is making sure that whoever you’re traveling with is dry and mud-free or they might ruin your camera.   This, of course, is not a problem if you have a waterproof one.

Happy planning!

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