israel: the dead sea

After spending the first part of the day at Masada, we headed to the Dead Sea for a few hours of floating, mud-slathering, sulphur-soaking, and finally, scrubbing like Meryl Streep a la Silkwood, to get the stink off.

The spa area has locker rooms, showers, a gift shop where you can purchase overpriced bathing suits, and a partially enclosed, heated sulphur pool.

After changing into your swimwear, you walk down a paved path to get to the water. There are lounge chairs on the beach, so you can hang out and watch the fun after you've had your fill.

There was a really curious but enjoyable energy about the place, and about the experience in general. A friendly, quiet, amused sense of intimacy. I mean, here are people from all over the world, come to this very famous place to partake in a highly fabled experience. We're all in bathing suits or underwear. Lots of skin. Few physical secrets remain hidden. It's not the French Riviera; the bodies are imperfect and natural, and average. Everyone's speaking a different language. But here we all are, stepping gingerly across the sharp limestone, wading carefully into the water, and squealing like children (of which there are very few) as we feel our bodies pushed up with weightlessness. You can't help but laugh delightedly, and you look at the person next to you - a middle-aged Eastern European woman with whom you could barely exchange the most minimal of pleasantries if you had to - and you're suddenly sharing an extraordinary moment with her.

It's kind of beautiful, actually.

This was the day I started buddying up with some of the guys from the tour. One of them, a stocky dude, had mud covering every inch of his body. I asked politely whether he'd saved any for the rest of us. He told me later he was terrified to answer me, because he didn't want to engage, not knowing whether or not I was legal. LOL. I love liars and flatterers.

It was nearing sunset, and the quality of light was beautiful.

My dad:

Gah, my hair looks crazy red here:

A friend saw this picture and said, "Oooh, I love the retro bathing suit!" Haha, it was a shirt and underwear. Super ghetto, I know, but I couldn't find a suit I liked before I left for the trip. Ok, that's not true. I found an Anna and Boy one I wanted like crazy, but I couldn't afford it. And rather get something cheaper that I didn't love, I decided to wait until I found the right suit at the right time (read: when I have money to get it).

The area was clearing out since the hour was so late, and I had a few moments to myself to just float quietly while I took in the surroundings. That's Jordan beyond my feet:

Afterwards, you can either rinse off near the water, or back up by the lockers.

I went into the sulphur pool for a little while, after soaking in the sea. That was a trip. Reeks to high heaven, but makes your skin feel amazing. It was pretty crowded, but everyone was talking very quietly and keeping polite distance. It all had a very spa-like vibe which I didn't want to disrupt or intrude upon with my camera. So, no pictures of that bit. But here's someone's YouTube video of it, in case you're curious what it looks like.

I rinsed my clothes off afterward, but they still dried stiff as a board and pungent as hell. I didn't want to spring for the hotel laundering service, so a sink shampooing it was!

I never would have thought I'd get to actually visit the Dead Sea. Very grateful to be able say now that I have.