Monday, November 28, 2011

Jordan Challenge 16: Float on the Dead the Rain

The whole point of the Dead Sea is that floating on it is absolutely no challenge at all.  The Dead Sea sits on the lowest area of the earth, and apparently, that makes the water evaporate at a rate faster than in any other body of water.  Added to that is the fact that the Jordan River that runs into it has practically entirely dried up through over usage, and you've got one very salty receding body of water.  That hasn't stopped resorts on both sides of it from building luxury hotels and spas along the edges, but luckily, a few years ago the city of Amman, some 60 kilometers away, created a public beach as a slightly more economical alternative for those who want to take a dip and be able to wash off the salt (which is nine times as concentrated as ocean salt), but still emerge with at least a little money in their wallets.  That beach was our stated destination when Chris and I did the next leg of our Discover Jordan Tour.

The plan was to spend the day at the Dead Sea (Chris was impervious to my warnings that, for most people, a bob about in the water is enough, then they're ready for something else) and the night and following day in the town of Madaba.  Everything was all set, but the weather just wouldn't cooperate.  I don't know if it's typical, but this past November Jordan has gotten entirely more rain than I would have expected in a desert nation.  And the day we hit the Dead Sea was no exception.

This is what the Dead Sea looks like on a very overcast late afternoon in November -- so funny that there's no flora or fauna in the water.
As far as Chris was concerned, though, it wasn't much of a problem.  For one thing, he has a passion for sliding on slick surfaces, and the tile surrounding the pool and dining area of Amman Beach definitely fit the classification of ultra-slick.

One of Chris's all-time favorite past-times -- sliding on slippery surfaces (while everyone around draws in their breath waiting for the fall that never happens).
And the nasty weather also scared off all but the most intrepid Scandinavian tourists (whom I'm guessing, like Vermonters, take pride in carrying on in bad weather).  So we had the beach mostly to ourselves, and performed the necessary tourist ritual of bobbing in the water, completely unable to sink, no matter what we tried.  The water is crystal clear because, except for brine shrimp, nothing -- no animals or vegetation -- can live in it.  The beach bottom is coated with a layer of crystallized salt, which is pretty to look at but harder to walk on.  And the water feels almost oily in its heaviness, though you know you're in it pretty quickly, when your skin starts to feel itchy and tight. 
Here I am doing the Dead Sea Float.  You pretty much have to float on your back because getting the water in your mouth, or worse, your eyes, is a terrible experience.

Chris cleverly brought a prop -- a Motor Trend magazine -- for his float.

We managed to outlast the rain, and when it finally grudgingly turned into a thin sprinkle, headed down to the water where Chris, I think, stayed in the water -- and marvelled at his transitory incredible floating abilities -- longer than any other swimmer (floater) that day.  I'd been once before with friends and former students Siham and Connor, and remember finding the whole thing a bit odd.  But it would certainly be a crime to come to Amman and not go.  Yet another unique experience for the books here in Jordan.

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