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Dead Sea Area

Dead Sea

Myself floating in the Dead Sea (no I’m not just sitting on the bottom)

Floating in the Dead Sea

After hiking around the En Gedi Nature Reserve, I took a short stroll to the nearby En Gedi Beach for a dip in the Dead Sea. The afternoon was warm and the water was almost the same temperature. The famous buoyancy of the Dead Sea was amazing, even with all the hype. Floating on my back or stomach was actually easier than being upright. It took effort to stay vertical in the water, as my feet were so buoyant they tended to float to the surface! If I was not careful, I could loose my balance and end up floating horizontally — either on my front or back — all the while trying to keep my head above water.

The salt and mineral concentration was notable besides just the extreme buoyancy it caused. When I got up and wiped the water off my body, I could feel the salt rubbing against my skin. The water was almost slimy. Even the air above the water was bad. I had shaved that morning, and the air bothered my skin, despite never having gotten my face wet. The rocks along the shoreline were also covered in thick layers of salt crystals. When I finally left, I had to shower well to get the coating of minerals off me.

After swimming, I dried in the sun and read for a while at the picnic area near the beach before catching the bus further down the coast to Masada.

A salt covered rock on the shore of the Dead Sea

En Gedi

A bus from Jerusalem took me through arid desert, along the Dead Sea, and dropped my off by En Gedi Nature Reserve. This site was an oasis in the middle of the desert, a spring fed stream flowing down a beautiful canyon, with green plants growing in the valley. Not having a ton of time, I stayed in the more established Wadi David Canyon. It was still very picturesque though, with a couple small, but very nice waterfalls — especially since they were in the desert. I hiked the trail to Dodim’s Cave, which climbed high above the canyon, but still did not give great views of the Dead Sea. Dodim’s Cave, if I found it correctly, was not much of a cave, but just a little hamlet of a rock overhanging the stream, providing shelter and my own private Eden.

En Gedi

The mountains of En Gedi
Looking out Wadi David to the Dead Sea


I was up early to march up Masada via the Snake Trail to watch the sunrise. The path was pretty steep, with steps much of the way. I had nowhere to stash my backpack either, so I had to haul that the whole way too. I sweated and huffed and puffed most of the way up. Actually doing something physical again was a nice feeling, although sitting on trains in Europe all summer, left me out of shape. By the time I reached the top it was light out, but the sun was still behind the mountains. I sat perched atop the remains of the fortress’s walls and watched the sunrise. It was nice, but not overly spectacular either. At least waking up to watch it got me to the trail’s acme before the day became unbearably hot.

At full light I went exploring the mountaintop Roman fortress. It was built by Herod the Great in around 30 B.C. and contained ruins of temples, baths, and storage rooms. Being in the desert atop a hill it had elaborate facilities to hold large quantities of water and food. The importance of baths to ancient Romans was highlighted, given how much effort keeping them filled on an arid mountain would have required.

Around the back of the fortress was the siege ramp the Romans built to eventually take the back the fortress from rebelling Jews — who committed suicide rather than be enslaved. The ramp was not as big as I imaged, but still would have taken considerable time and effort to build with at most animal power. The ruins as a whole were like many of the ruins I have seen — semi organized piles of rock and crumbled walls — but their history and being atop this large mesa was neat.

The stroll down Snake Path was much easier, which at nine in the morning was already very hot. I enjoyed the air conditioning in the visitor center before catching a bus south as the first leg on my way to Petra.


The Snake Path leading up Masada
The Roman siege ramp using to infiltrate Masada
Sunrise from atop Masada