The Dead Sea. Is it really dead? Is it really a sea?

Karolina Fotyga

Wait, what? So what is DEAD SEA and where is it?

Well, from the very beginning. The morbid sounding “Dead Sea” is actually considered to be a lake by some and a sea – by others.

As a reminder – in general – seas are large, and salty and deep.

Lakes are smaller, with either fresh or salt water and they are inland water bodies.

So there you go – is it a sea or a lake? 🙂

If you’re curious – there’s also the Caspian Sea – actually the largest lake in the world – it’s called a sea because of its size and the salty waters. Also, the Aral Sea is actually a lake. And a Galilee Sea also in Israel – also a lake :)) Surprise. 

Dead Sea

Back to the Dead (Sea)

It’s also the lowest point on Earth – 430,5 meters (ca 1400 feet) below the sea level. Located in the Jordan Valley in the Middle East – with Israel and Palestinian Autonomy in the West and Jordan in the East. With over 30% salinity it’s one of the saltiest water bodies in the world, 10 times saltier than the oceans, and it’s also the deepest salt lake in the world.

The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea -430 below the sea level

More facts

The Dead Sea is drying out at a very alarming rate – more than 1 meter a year.  The surface has shrunk by 30% in the last 20 years. The main reason for that is that more than 90% of the water that was going to the Dead Sea from another Sea that is actually a Lake (what is it with the names??) – the Galilee Sea is now used differently.  It goes for crops and for everyday use instead.

The Dead Sea
moon-like landscape of the Dead Sea

You will often see the signs prohibiting from using the beach – and the reason is usually the sinkholes – they occur due to the shrinking size of the sea.  Because of all this a huge program – The Two Seas Canal – is carried out by Jordan. It is to help stabilize the level of the sea by bringing water from Aqaba – Red Sea to Lisan region at the Dead Sea. The construction is to start next year (2018).

The Dead Sea

Why is the Dead Sea so salty?

It’s actually the end station for the incoming water – the water goes in (from the rain – yes it rains sometimes even there), and from the Jordan River but it doesn’t go out. And because it’s extremely hot in this region it evaporates quickly. Too quickly. Also back in the day, this Sea was connected with the Mediterranean Sea, and the deepening rift of the Dead Sea was filled with its water. All this explains why there’s such concentration of minerals in the Dead Sea – mostly salt.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

Why do you float in the Dead Sea?

It’s because of the unusually high salt concentration and its result – the natural buoyancy. Salt dissolved in water makes it much more dense than the fresh water. It’s also denser than a human body. You might have noticed – you don’t float in the fresh water you simply sink.

The Dead Sea

What is it with the name?

The name of the Dead Sea has to be taken literally.  Literally, no animal and no plant live in its waters. Only small amounts of bacteria and microbial fungi are present.  Back in the day when the River Jordan was flowing into the sea with full force – during the wet season – it would also bring a variety of fish. The sea would be a death trap for them – they wouldn’t/and they still don’t make it in the extremely salty waters. And there you go.

The Dead Sea
The Dead Sea as seen from the Masada Fortress

The Dead Sea

Did you know?

The name ‘Dead Sea’ is not mentioned in the Bible. It was called a lake, or Sea of Salt. Other names it went by were: the Sea of Sodom, the Sea of Lot, the Stinking Sea, the Sea of Asphalt and crusaders called it the Devil’s Sea. Quite accurate, don’t you think? 😉

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

So what’s with the stink?

You might notice the quite unpleasant smell – like rotten eggs. It comes from the sulphur that comes from the hot springs that you can also enjoy (or not – the water can be really hot!) alongside the sea and in the sea itself.

The Dead Sea

The first spa in the world? The water, the mud, the air and the sun.

It’s said to have been the first health spa in the ancient times – some say it was Herod the Great, others claim it was Cleopatra who made it well known.

The Dead Sea

Today the Dead Sea has an extremely high minerals concentration in its mud. Also a very low concentration of pollens and other allergens in the atmosphere. Add that to the reduced ultraviolet component of solar radiation, and the higher atmospheric pressure at this depth and you’ll come up with a perfect spot for any spa center. Because the mud is packed with magnesium, potassium, sodium, bromide and calcium – all those minerals from the Dead Sea are said to help enormously with psoriasis and other skin conditions.

The Dead Sea

Asphalt, the Dead Sea and the Pharaoh?

What does a pharaoh have in common with the Dead Sea?

The Dead Sea was a serious supplier of asphalt used by the Egyptians in the process of mummification. Yes -Asphalt. It’s quite unusual but the Dead Sea does produce asphalt. When the Earth trembles and it does so in this deep rift – it discharges some amounts of this black substance in the form of stones or pebbles from its bottom. There are 2 reasons why the ancient Egyptians would use asphalt. Firstly as a mechanical shield. They would paint over already wrapped body – it would secure it from the fungi, bacteria and moisture.  And secondly – most likely due to its high sulphur content – as a biocidal agent – to help prevent the flesh from decaying. Amazing.

The Dead Sea

The world’s lowest road

It’s the highway 90 – runs along the Israeli and Palestinian shores of the Dead Sea – at around 400 meters below the sea level.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

Instructions on how to behave 😉

  • remember about the heat – hydrate;)
  • do not take a dive – also do not splash on one another – because of the salinity and the sulfur concentration – your eyes would burn like hell
  • do not shave or wax a day before your planned sea time – any cut or wound or even scratch will burn (the salt, remember?)
  • doctors recommend maximum of 20 minutes per bath – prolonged stay may cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance
  • do not under any circumstances drink the water from the sea, although people don’t sink they may drown – if the water gets to your lungs as little as half a glass can cause serious consequences.
  • drink fresh water – and lots of it – especially right after the bath
  • get a shower after being in the water – otherwise, when the sea water evaporates from your skin it will leave it itchy and irritated
  • also – beware of sinkholes – use only official beaches – this feature may actually be really dangerous for you.

other than that – just lay back and relax 🙂

The Dead Sea

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

The beaches worth visiting

Kalia Beach – it’s located right next to the Kibbutz Kalia – half an hour away from Jerusalem and around an hour from Tel Aviv.

There’s Biankini Morrocan Restaurant there and The Lowest Bar In The World. Just saying;)

Kalia Beach

Ein Bokek – while you’re at it – you may treat yourself with the famous Dead Sea Spa experience – this is the beach with the close vicinity of many hotels.  How about some SPA TIME?

Ein Bokek

Segregated Beach – between the Leonardo Club and Herod’s Hotel – the beach is divided for both men’s and women’s part. Even in the sea, there is a wall separating men and women so they can be in the sea without as much as an eye contact.

Segregated Beach

Ein Gedi – even though the beach is closed now – again – the sinkholes – you may still enjoy the Spa Resorts open all year round.

Ein Gedi Mineral Beach nice, but currently closed – due to the sinkholes – until further notice. Mineral Beach

If you’d like some more information on what to do in Israel – check out  THIS LINK 🙂

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