Beauty treatment as nature intended
By James Stone
The Dead Sea is famous across the world for its, well, saltiness. And an anticipated swim in it does not disappoint. We were on holiday in Jordan and after a week travelling around the country we spent the last days relaxing on the shores of this very unusual beach.
Getting into the water isn't exactly graceful. The sand is rough so jelly shoes are a must and the drop into the water can be quite steep. The colour of the sea is strange - like icey blue curacao - and you can't see your legs for long once you've got in. As you cautiously step in, unsure of the ground level, the water clings to your legs. Once you're at about waist level, suddenly the water picks your feet up from beneath you, completely involuntarily, until you're suspended with your knees and shoulders poking out above the water level.
It takes a little while to get used to, as every movement shifts your body rather than the water, a bit like being in Space, I suppose. And then there's the added fear of getting the briney solution in your eyes or mouth. You can't drink the water - which is basically poison and will pickle you from the inside. You're advised to drink milk or eat ice cream before you go in, in case you do, but if the accidental occurs you risk having your stomach pumped at the nearest hospital. I got some in my eye and it was excruciatingly painful. It also left a dry patch of skin there for some weeks.
But once you've stabilised and adapted to your new medium - it's so wonderful. You can lie on your back and you're practically out of the water, it holds you so high. My friend wrote his postcards in this way and didn't get a drop of water on them - although his pen dried out in the sun. You get used to the water's rhythms and can swim a bit and roll on your front without ducking your head under. It's glorious.
Getting out, you have to rinse yourself off with clean water so as not to end up like a piece of salted cod fish. But then comes the mud. Thick, gooey mud from the sea bed which is full of rich minerals. We coated ourselves from head to foot - literally - all over our hair and faces. Everyone does it. There are rows and rows of grannies, children and men showing off their pecks all coated in the sludge. We left it on until the sun sucked out all the water and we began to crack. It did leave out skin beautifully soft - the perfect, natural spa treatment.
The only mistake I made when visiting the Dead Sea was to try and get a tan. After my deep sea cleanse leaving me as soft as a baby, I decided to frazzle myself in the Middle Eastern sun. Only a few hours and all that pampering was undone.