Hello again! I’m back for another post dated blog article – have you figured out where I am yet?
So I finally got to sleep around 3am, and when I say I got to sleep, I mean I slept wonderfully. Lovely bed in the hotel, plus you know, the whole 12 hours in the air thing probably helped. Sadly, we planned for a pretty early morning (8am meet up), which meant me waking up at 7am, so wake up I did. I probably could have slept the entire day 😛 but that wouldn’t have been terribly good for my jet lag – so this was for sure the best way to do it.
Dave and I met up at 8am downstairs for our continental breakfast – pretty simple but a nice start to the day. We decided to make the most of one of our free days before everyone else arrives, so we booked a tour to the Dead Sea through the hotel, something that was very high on my todo list for this trip.
The taxi arrived at 10:30am, and took us about an hour to reach the Dead Sea. We pulled up to what was essentially a tourist beach – which was not at all what Dave and I were expecting. We were kind of thinking we’d be dropped off somewhere alongside the beach and be able to go directly to the Dead Sea – but anyway, we paid our 20 JD (approx 40 CAD) and made our way in.
The inside was actually very nice – it had two huge pools, change rooms, food, drinks etc – basically what you’d see at an all inclusive, except it wasn’t all inclusive 😛 Still very nice, but I still felt a little weird about it – we were going for the Dead Sea experience, not to visit a tourist beach. A little Wikipedia info for you on the Dead Sea before I continue…
The Dead Sea is 304 m (997 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 34.2% salinity (in 2011), it is also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water, though Lake Vanda in Antarctica (35%), Lake Assal in Djibouti (34.8%), Lagoon Garabogazköl in the Caspian Sea (up to 35%) and some hypersaline ponds and lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica (such as Don Juan Pond (44%)) have reported higher salinities. It is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name.
Anyway, we got changed and made our way down to the actual beach, just a little away from the resort – and I think we both sighed a sigh of relief, as it looked much more like what we were expecting to see.
We dropped our stuff on a couple of lawn chairs and cautiously went into the water. At first it didn’t really feel any different, but pretty soon I could feel the salt… my skin became very (very) soft, if you rubbed it you could see the salt crystals after you emerged from the water, and… what was that last thing? Oh yeah. You float. You cannot sink. It just can’t happen.
Don’t get me wrong – you take a few mouthfulls of water and you can still drown, but you’re just gonna float there while you do it. It was the most bizarre, and interesting feeling I’ve ever had in the water. I could just lie on my back and bob up and down with no effort. If I tried to stand up, chances were I’d wind up floating on my belly. The most comfortable position I found was me grabbing my knees and just kind of sitting up in the water… which again, is very, very bizarre.
You just… float there. I tried to press myself to the bottom a bit further out, when I couldn’t touch the ground anymore, and I couldn’t do it. Could not touch the ground – period. I could spin around, but I was not gonna be sinking anytime soon.
The next thing we tried, after seeing a tourist group start, is a mud bath!! So first let me just say, along the bottom there is absolute solid salt. Just sitting there – you step on it, it’s solid, you can break off a piece if you want, but it’s totally solid salt. If you dig a bit underneath the salt you will find some very, very slimy (I’m sure there’s a better word :P) mud, and it apparently has wonderful effects on your skin… so we layered that on our bodies and baked in the mud for a few minutes! I have to say – I never saw myself getting a mud bath, but it felt pretty good!!!
The driver told us we could take up to two hours to hang out at the Dead Sea, but I thought to myself I’d be bored after 30 minutes. When we finally climbed out it was an hour and a half later. Wow! Time flies when you’re lying in a bed of saline.
We made our way up the tourist beach, after showering off a bit, and all of a sudden found the 20 JD we paid very worth it. We took a wonderful swim in the pools to totally cleanse ourselves of our salty bath (it’s not easy!), enjoyed the lounge chairs to dry off, and generally had a very pleasant experience before returning to the taxi for the trip home.
I have to say, this was a truly unique experience I never would have thought of before, but the feeling you experience is fantastic, and I highly recommend it to anyone. What a cool thing to do.
I was pretty tired at this point so dozed off a bit on the ride back, but we stopped about half way at a souvenir shop to pickup a few interesting items, and then made our way to a shawarma place that was recommended by our driver last night for lunch, which was nice.
As I was at the beach I was really struck with what a huge contrast this trip will be, and what a massive gap there is between the refugees that we will soon be meeting – which are only about an hour drive away, and what Amman has to offer to its citizens and tourists. On one hand we have close to 750,000 people living under refugee status, and on the other we have a tourist beach with people lounging around, without a care in the world… I think it will add a very interesting perspective to this trip, having had the opportunity to see this side as well.
In case you didn’t pickup on it there, I’m in Jordan – specifically, Amman, Jordan, with plans to visit the two UNHCR refugee camps within Jordan.
So we returned to the hotel and got ourselves freshened up a bit, before heading out once again – this time to grab me a SIM card for my phone (always nice to have internet without paying our insane roaming fees in Canada), and then to visit the Taj Mall! A fairly new, beautiful mall just 15 minutes down the road.
I don’t know why, but I always enjoy wandering around foreign malls. I don’t really buy anything, but I find them all interesting for some reason. We took a taxi to the mall after walking part of the way – very cheap, by the way – got a pat down on the way in, and proceeded to wander. Tons of western stores. Tons. I mean we recognized at least one in every direction we turned!
Starbucks, McDonalds, H&M… at least 50% of the place was western stores I’d heard of before, and it was a huge mall. There was a movie theatre and a really cool rooftop terrace sort of thing with a fantastic view, and a bunch of restaurants. Neat place to visit.
We got dinner here at a fire cook house – I was looking for something simple and familiar, since I know this week we’ll be trying lots of different things, so we kept it easy and enjoyed a nice dinner. After that we wandered around a bit, Dave got a Starbucks and I got a frozen yogurt, then we found a taxi to take us back… which actually ended up being more annoying than not, as everyone insisted on charging us a flat rate instead of doing the meter, which we knew would be cheaper. They tried 5 JD, 4 JD, and then eventually we found a driver to take us on the meter which wound up costing us about 1.4 JD… nice try, guys.
Now we’re back at the hotel having a rest before going for a wander a bit later. Two of the UNHCR staff are in the hotel already, everyone else is arriving later tomorrow night. Dave and I are planning to go to Petra tomorrow, which should be really interesting – I think those two things (Petra and the Dead Sea) are really the main two things we wanted to see, so I’m thrilled that we’ll be able to accomplish this!
Anyway this is getting long, so I’ll hold off on my observations of Jordan so far until tomorrow. Until then… 🙂