Israel / Palestinian Territories / Places We Go

The Dead Sea: The Lowest Place On Earth

Sitting in the largest and deepest basin in the world, the Dead Sea presents us with one of the most unique environments to be found on our planet.

This sign is found near the top of the cliffs that drop down to the Dead Sea… But, with its surface now almost 1,400 feet below sea level, it is still quite a journey from this point until one actually reaches the Dead Sea:

sea level dead sea

After passing the sign pictured above, one weaves down through these cliffs and canyons for many miles:

dead sea cliffs

With the exception of places such as the Ein Gedi oasis, not much can survive down here:

dead sea cliffs

And finally, when traveling along Route 90, one is given their first view of the Dead Sea:

dead sea

The ambience of the Dead Sea depends greatly on the weather of the day. This is a view out over the Dead Sea toward Jordan on the day of a significant sandstorm:

dead sea

dead sea

And then the Dead Sea on a sunny day…

dead sea

dead sea

Sunny or not, it isn’t easy to forget where you are:

dead sea

Just last year, the Israeli military intercepted Palestinian arms smugglers that had been ferrying their products across the Dead Sea to the West Bank from Jordan in rubber rafts.

But most people don’t come to smuggle or kill…

dead sea

They come to experience the extreme buoyancy provided by the water’s high salt content. They come for the spa treatments utilizing mud from the Dead Sea. They come to cure their psoriasis. They come to get a tan. They come to have their picture taken next to the Dead Sea. And they come for… Well, you get the idea.

I am of the opinion that most of the claims of miraculous rejuvenation of the soul, skin purification, etc. are nonsense. Nevertheless, the Dead Sea remains immensely popular with overweight, overtanned Eastern Europeans.

At the southern end of the Dead Sea can be found a cluster of modern hotels imposed upon the desert in a tourist enclave named Ein Bokek:

dead sea hotel

Tourists abandoning the shores of the Dead Sea as evening falls:

dead sea tourists

Over the past several decades, the water level of the Dead Sea has been decreasing dramatically. And in just the last two decades, the Dead Sea has shrunk by a third. This swift recession of the water levels has left massive sinkholes in its wake and has spiked the already extremely salty waters of the sea to a level where even the extraordinary one-celled microbes that long ago adapted to this poisonous environment are dying off.

This drop in the water levels is a consequence of Israel, Jordan and Syria diverting almost all of the waters of the Jordan River for people to be able to have lawns in the desert and for industrial agriculture.

One proposed solution is to construct a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea – the “Red to Dead” solution – but with current events being what they are in the region, I view it as extremely unlikely that this will be happening anytime soon.

dead sea salt

The level of salt in the Dead Sea is 8.6 times that of the planet’s oceans. And this salt coats everything the waters come in contact with:

dead sea salt

A closeup of the salt crystals:

dead sea salt

Like the glaciers, I’m not sure how much longer the Dead Sea will be around. So, I’m glad I saw it when I did.

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5 thoughts on “The Dead Sea: The Lowest Place On Earth

  1. interesting – and you have great photos – though its sad to think that having been around for centuries, the Dead Sea probably won’t be around for another one

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