There is nowhere on earth quite like the Dead Sea. As we drove down from Madaba the vista opened out as the road switched back and forth as if we were in the Alps (it descends roughly 750m in 25km – your ears pop more than once on the way down!), past vineyards and olive groves, avoiding the goat herds grazing by the roadside – and often across the road, and YOU stop for THEM – and past traditional camel grazing areas and, with ears still popping, down to the very edge of the Dead Sea.
They say you can’t burn here as the minerals that evaporate from the sea filter the sun’s rays, and I can believe it.
You can taste the minerals in the air and see them as you look at the intense blue water, which shines like a highly-polished mirror and gives you a peculiar close up clarity of the West Bank at certain times of the day, as if you are viewing it through a camera lens.
The scrubland is punctuated by river gullies bright with flowers and olive trees in groves, herds of multi-coloured goats, and camels ‘parked’ by the side of the road, tied to lamp posts as their owners take shelter to eat their lunch in the shade of the nearest olive tree.
The grazing lands alongside the Dead Sea are the summer residence of many Bedouin families – the tents are large family affairs made of brown, black and grey woven goat and camel hair blankets, while the 4x4s parked next to them are all equipped with television aerials, a true blend of modern and traditional!
We stayed at the Movenpick, one of the Dead Sea resorts, an oasis of luxury that despite its international status (it is part of the Swiss chain) has an authentically Jordanian feel, complete with traditional-style stone houses, and gardens of ancient olive trees, bougainvillea and oleander. It was utterly gorgeous and we had a huge suite with a balcony, a ‘help yourself’ mini bar, and a bathroom well stocked with delectable spa samples, such as Dead Sea mud and salt scrub, much to the girls’ uncontainable excitement!
The Movenpick boosts two infinity pools and a private beach where you can smother yourself in Dead Sea mud (don’t put it near your eyes – as Cecily did – it stings like crazy, and avoid cuts and grazes as well) and then wash it off while floating in the weird buoyantness that is the Dead Sea (walking on water anyone…?). The cliched newspaper reading would have been a doddle to be honest.
Minerals are extracted from the Dead Sea as part of Jordan’s core industries and used in a variety of beauty products, and the Movenpick also has the Zara Spa as part of its amenities, where you can get traditional Dead Sea therapies, such as mud wrapping, salt scrubs, hydro-pools and algae facials as well as a range of contemporary treatments, such as shiatsu massage. It was just a shame that the girls, being under 16, couldn’t join me.
Dead Sea tips
• Drive there from Madaba – the view is breathtaking as you descend down the side of the mountain past Mt Nebo.
• Try the spa treatments – children under the age of 16 can experiment with the complementary products in the suites.
• Careful with the Dead Sea mud, it stings if you get it in your eyes or if you have cuts or grazes
• Go floating! This is one experience you’ll never repeat anywhere else!