France, Spain, Egypt, Jordan and UAE 2013
This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.
14.05.2013 - 14.05.2013
While Susan, Val and Troi ventured on to Petra for the day to “look” at things, I decided to go to the Dead Sea to “look and DO” some things.
It was a great day, but as were the last two excursions, a very prolonged day. From the time we disembarked the ship till the time the bus returned with its haggard riders, twelve hours had elapsed almost to the minute. The port city at which we docked was Aqaba. No doubt Susan will comment on it a bit when she blogs about her day, but allow me a word or two. Aqaba, compared to Alexandria, Cairo and to some extent Safaga, was a welcome relief in terms of metropolitan and rural cleanliness. Jordan has a functioning government (even a King) and the fact that people are actually taxed and the tax dollars are being spent properly is evident.
Our tour guide was a native born Jordanian and Muslim but soon we found his Bible knowledge to be down right encyclopedic. The way up to the Dead Sea took us very close to the city of Amman. In the general area was where Moses saw the burning bush, the location of where John baptized Jesus, where Lot's wife experienced her solidifying fate and where and where the King's highway separated the territories of the ancient Ammonites and Mideonites.
On the other hand I'm certain he ripped me off. En-route I asked him about locker rentals. He said yes they had lockers where we were going, and gave me the cost in Jordanian dinars and the corresponding cost in American dollars and added he could make the exchange for me. Five American dollars for three dinars I was told and I paid up grateful for his helpfulness. Later, when at the hotel where we had an arrangement for lunch and to access the Dead Sea beach, I learned that yes, the locker rental there cost 3 dinars, but that they required a twenty dinar deposit (which I didn't have of course), and that they didn't take American moolah. I found out as well that no one used lockers anyway, as the benches by the edge of the beach was only a few meters so we all could keep a close eye on things. But to add salt to the wound (pardon the pun) was (a) Susan informing me that night that three dinars equals $2.25 American (not 5) and (b) I gave him a very generous tip, and shook his hand respectfully before saying good night. It was a Royal Caribbean hosted tour, so I will be giving a negative review in part, when I get home and can post it on their web site. The other thing was the lack of water. The other private tour busses were doling out bottles of free water willy nilly. But in 7 1/2 hours of driving on the Cruise tour bus in upper thirty degree temperatures nary a drop was dispensed to the riders. RCCL was offering water to everyone disembarking but at bloated prices. It all just seemed so wrong.
Anyway enough bitchin'.
The Dead Sea was awesome! The waster is close to 400 meters below sea level. The salinity of the water is a little over thirty percent. Regular run of the mill ocean water is a scanty five percent. Yes you can literally just lie on your back and effortlessly float. The water was a little rough so you couldn't completely relax as the last thing you want is some water in your face and eyes. I got a couple of drops in my right eye and man! does it ever sting big time. While there I saw lots of people making a dash for the beach to rinse out their traumatized orbs. The level of the Dead Sea is getting lower and lower annually. Each year its depth goes down by one meter. I filled up a water bottle with the briny liquid. When I got home I had Susan dip a finger in and give it taste. It immediately looked like she just bit into a lemon. I forgot to take off my watch, but was relieved that it was still working the next day with all functions intact. The only thing that suffered was the bezel that spun around. It is now welded in place with a saline grip. I also took home some of the beautiful sand next to the beach. I've never seen such fine chromatic coloured sand before.
As I mentioned, the breakers were coming in pretty good at times. Once, I was standing in about four feet of water near a short statured middle-aged Japanese lady. She took a wave backside and knocked her down, slammed her face into the sea, and pushed her around four feet toward shore. I rushed over to her, took her hand and got her to her feet. I quickly escorted her to the beach where they had a hose set up with tepid fresh water running for this express purpose. After a ten second dousing she could see again and heartily thanked me in broken English. I felt like a hero and deservedly so I hasten to admit.
Once I was up to my neck and I was holding my body weight with one toe bearing maybe one pound or less. The danger is losing your balance. Many who did began to panic and naturally roll on to their stomachs which only exacerbates the problem, since it is impossible to 'swim' in the Dead sea. The only means of locomotion is a gentle back stroke or by walking. Even when on your back in shallow depths, it takes some real effort to find your feet.
The other highlight was the black goo indigenous to the region, renowned for its health benefits due to a concoction of elements, minerals and other biological agents that are supposedly good for the skin. Nearby clay deposits are brought over to the swimming area and deposited in small barrels and watered down till a slippery mass is attained. It is then ready for us to apply. Like I said it is black as wet new pavement and gooey as engine grease. One heavily accented Aussie was black with the stuff from head (including hair) to toe. I said to him that I had never met an Australian Aborigine before which induced a hearty laugh from the ridiculous looking man. I later saw some stoic Arabic dudes reach into their bathing suits with handfuls of the muck to complete the full monty effect. When I “blackened up”, as we referred to it, I was standing next to a large sixty something black American Texan who was having tremendous fun telling everyone that they were the blacks now and how did they feel about that. He spontaneously asked me if I would . . . do his back. I complied ignoring the bit of acne he sported along with some nasty looking pre-cancerous protruding moles and was rewarded with him doing mine. Once you are coated you sit in the 36 degree heat and let it bake the sludge hard and dry. Then back into the 30 degree dead sea to rinse off. A half hour later I repeated the process. The only other conversation I had was struck while in the water with a man and his wife from Montreal who in our 8 – 10 minute conversation managed to mention three times that he was trilingual. I guess he had something with the number three. Three conversations in a two and a half hour stretch! I was becoming a virtual gregarious animal. I made up for it by assuming my back of the bus corner seat not uttering a peep to anyone for the entire journey back. Instead, I only studied the people near me as I am often wont to do, this time observing a desperate attempt of a man to cozy up with a rather plain looking woman to explore and ideally seek out further social options once back aboard. Once his attempt had been unequivocally quashed he sulked and played solitaire on his iPad for a solid one and a half hours.
The only areas of my body that suffered were my underarms on which I have had a little rash due to the deodorant I have been using, and a rash on my inner thigh. The salt water is merciless. I even had a tinge of a burning discomfort in my anus, but we won't go there.
All in all it was truly a unique experience. I would recommend it to all and would go back in a heart beat. Petra shmetra.