Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To bikini or not in the Dead Sea

Yesterday we drove from Jerusalem down to the Dead Sea to stay at a resort right on the water's edge and get some proper R&R, Israeli-style.

This was one of the highlights of the trip, for me, as I'd first visited the Dead Sea about ten years ago. I couldn't forget the feeling I experienced when I first got into the water, and that strange sensation of never being able to sink -- no matter what you do.


I also remember covering myself with the famous Dead Sea mud, and that amazing baby-skin feeling I had afterwards. Remembering these things, I was really looking forward to our overnight stay.

The trip from Jerusalem took about 90 minutes. We set off after a very traditional Jewish lunch at the famous restaurant Ima, where we had the usual assortment of mezze appetizers followed by some excellent grilled meats. A few tables away, a famous CNN correspondent was also having his lunch.

It was my nth time to have that cucumber-and-tomato salad with olive oil and salt as a starter for a meal, but I was so loving it. I'd already had it for breakfast in Jerusalem, and then at lunch I'd had two helpings.


Ima is quite modern inside but it's strictly traditional in principle. So everything is Kosher and no dairy products are allowed. So we ended our meal with hot beverages and not much dessert -- which was very healthy, as far as I was concerned. And while I had mint tea, the others had coffee -- but they had to drink it straight as there was no milk on the premises.

Dessert was also interesting, as this restaurant cannot serve the usual cakes, pastries or ice cream because these all contain dairy in some way. So the dessert was a rather simple plate of cookies and other sweets which we assumed were made with no dairy products as well.

Of course, cookies or pastries without milk, eggs, butter or cream tastes very different from what we expect. It was terribly interesting, as an experience.


After lunch, we set off for the Dead Sea. I sat by the window of the van, looking out as we passed the West Bank areas. It's easy to spot the West Bank neighborhoods because of the wall of concrete erected all around it to delineate Israel from the West Bank.

The Israelis explain that this was needed, to stop the suicide bombings in Israel.

The last time I was in Israel, this wall was not yet around and I could not make out Israel from Palestine as the neighborhoods all basically merged into each other. I kept having to ask my guide which was Palestinian territory and which was Israeli territory.


The Dead Sea at sunrise this morning
Along the way, there were also signs marking our descent from something like 1000 feet above sea level to 400 feet below sea level. It was very gradual so we did not feel it at all; and if not for the signs along the way, we would probably never have known how low we were going until we got to the hotel.

At the zero sea level point, we stopped the van as the view was wonderful and the sign that said that we were exactly at sea level (and this meant we had 400 feet more to go) represented a good photo opportunity.

But it was 35 degrees outside, and the desert sand made it seem ten times more this temperature. So we two girls opted to stay in the van and take photos from the window, while the guys bravely got out to take or pose for photos.


Finally we reached the Dead Sea and we checked into our hotel. I quickly got online to check emails, but I decided not to answer anything as I was so eager to get down to the sea. I think I was the first one in the water, and I stayed in the Dead Sea until the cut-off time for swimming, which was 645 PM.

It was so nice and relaxing to just float in the water, reading a copy of Travelife Magazine. And then when sunset began, the colors of the desert and the mountains of Jordan across the Dead Sea changed, and all I did was sit -- or at least try to sit -- in the water and gaze at the changing landscapes.

It was really spectacular.


Then just before going to bed, I sent my friend J a photo of myself in the Dead Sea, reading a copy of Travelife Magazine. Yes, although I've placed a semi-embargo on writing about him in this blog -- which is why you don't read much about him -- he's still around. Sort of like a second baggage in a Travelife.

Anyway, when I woke up this morning, there was a pretty condescending reply to the very nice photo I had sent, in my In Box.

He wrote: "You're in the Dead Sea. You should be wearing a bikini."

I smiled and replied back: "How presumptuous you are, as usual. After I had this photograph taken, I took off all my clothes and stayed in the water until way past sunset."

It wasn't true at all, but I just couldn't help sending him that message, to win in our little ongoing game of one-upmanship -- at least for today.

Have a wonderful day, wherever in the world you are. We're headed for the party town of Tel Aviv today. Just another day in our never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


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