World's largest natural spa

Get into the water and lie on your back. Within seconds, you'll feel buoyant. And then you are afloat! Unaided - no floaters, no inflated tubes. And you stay afloat even when you lift up your hands and legs. Ehhh... how's that possible?

You are in the Dead Sea, my friend, where even non-swimmers can float. And for one who can't swim, the Dead Sea is a whole mass of watery heaven for me. Well, almost. It's lovely to just let my body go limp and float to wherever the waves push me but the blazing summer heat and the salty water that gets into my eyes are just too much to bear.

I am on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea which, less than a decade ago, was a barren land with nothing except arid hills and mountains. Sandwiched between the rolling hills of Jerusalem on the west and mountains on the east, the Dead Sea area in Jordan today is far from dead.

A strip of swanky resorts with spas have sprouted up like mushrooms. On the muddy shores are luxurious resorts that attract tourists with a multitude of spa facilities like indoor-outdoor hot tubs and saltwater pools. And there are spa therapists that can bring you to a state of heightened relaxation, after which, depending on whether you have a deep pocket or not, your blood circulation can get quite a jolt when you have to part with some JD50 (S$89) in just under an hour.

Then again, you needn't spend all that money within the confines of the indoor spa, for you have the vast Dead Sea at your disposal. It is the world's largest natural spa with a rich blend of salts and minerals that have many therapeutic benefits, including for those with skin-related problems and respiratory conditions. Even if you don't have any of these conditions, the warm water is absolutely soothing. The super-salty water of the Dead Sea is 10 times saltier than other sea water, that's why bathers can bob like coconuts.

Then there's the Dead Sea's mineral-rich and stimulating black mud. Slather it on your body, leave it to dry for some 20 minutes or more, then soak in the sea to wash the goo off. You'll emerge with your skin feeling as smooth as porcelain, which is really not a bad thing at all. Imagine if you can do this, say three to four times a week, you'll have so gorgeous a complexion that even Snow White can be beaten at the magic mirror.

You'd think that only women love the mud. No, even men make quite a sight on the seashore. Stripped except for their skimpy swimming trunks, they'd slather the black mud all over their body, looking much like orang minyak (literally, the oily man, featured in one of P. Ramlee's popular movies with the same title).

It is so amusing to see these mud-caked men and women strutting about and sunbathing, before bobbing - up down, up down - in the sea.

I am one of them too, but the difference is, I am fully clothed with just my face, palms and feet exposed. But these too are slathered with the black mud, so what's bare are only my white teeth. So other bathers are amused looking at me.

If you haven't been to the Dead Sea, perhaps it's time to do so. Not just because it's a unique natural attraction but because it may no longer be there by the year 2050. That is, if the prediction by scientists become true. Studies have shown that the Dead Sea water level is dropping by about 30 cm per year because it's being diverted for industry, agriculture and household use in large scale by Jordan and its neighbour Israel. So, go before it's well and truly dead.


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