Jordan’s Dead Sea Resorts: Pamper Body and Soul

By on June 13, 2013
couple sitting on banks of the Dead Sea

By Sandra Glahn –

What do you get when you mix mineral-rich waters, thermal sulfur springs, therapeutic mud, a dry, sunny climate and soul-altering sites? If you guessed the Dead Sea area of Jordan, you answered correctly. Its many resorts offer something for everyone from vacationers looking for health-focused getaways to honeymooners to pilgrims taking solo retreats. Indeed, the Dead Sea’s bucket-list-level pilgrimage destinations and internationally renowned spas offer holistic revitalization.

What we know today as the Dead Sea was, in biblical times, called the Salt Sea or the Sea of Arabah. Unlike the Sea of Galilee to the north, Jordan’s lunar-like seascape played only a minor role in biblical narratives, as the Ammonite and Moabite armies crossed it at a shallow place en route to attack King Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 20). But the Sea has a big biblical future, according to Ezekiel, who prophesied that after Christ returns its now-shrinking waters will be fresh, and fishermen will cast nets on its shores (Ezek. 47:1–12).

Many assume the Dead Sea is the saltiest lake on earth, but that title actually goes to a lake in Antarctica. Still, the Dead Sea is the earth’s second most saline body; if you ingested a full glass of its waters, you would die. But the Dead Sea’s mud and waters can work wonders when applied externally.

The Dead Sea area gets about 330 days of sunshine yearly, so travelers have a good chance of enjoying its rays’ natural phototherapy. And though the sun may beat down, at a thousand feet below sea level, UV rays do less damage. July and August temperatures can reach unbearable highs, but November—which is just around the corner—is one of the best times to go. Here are some suggestions for making the most of your time.

  • Rest easy. Although other parts of the region convulse with turmoil, Jordan remains at peace, and the US State Department has issued no warnings for travelers going there. Jordan’s American-educated king is an ally, and the country’s citizens warmly welcome Americans. Leaving its borders open, Jordan is a hospitable place for Syrian refugees, a moderate voice amidst radicalism, and a broker of peace between warring nations.
  • Transfer to resorts with ease. From the airport in Amman, the Dead Sea is just an hour away, and many hotels run shuttles you can catch for a fee.
  • Know that people will understand you. Recently I spent nine days on a press junket in Jordan, and everyone with whom I spoke, with the exception of one hotel worker, spoke English.
  • Pack water shoes. The beaches have small pebbles and jagged salt. Flip-flops will float away. I used an old pair of Keds packed in a plastic bag for luggage transport.
  • Don’t shave. Once you’re lying in the water, you’ll discover scratches, blisters, or nicks you didn’t even know you had. The salt makes them sting. So shave at least a full day before you get in.
  • Slather on the mud. For the softest skin, rub the brown resort-provided goo on your torso and legs (not your face). Let it cake and bake on you, and then go for a float to wash it off.
  • Step into the water. Expect the Dead Sea to feel different from anything you have ever experienced. When I entered it, I was immediately conscious that no fish would tickle my legs, as the liquid is too salinated to support marine life. Hence the label “Dead.”
  • Float only on your back. Keep the water out of your eyes at all costs. It seriously hurts. Also, signs warn vacationers to float only on their backs—instructions to take seriously. Annually several people die because they disobey this rule. Legs float better than expected, and in the stomach-down position a person can easily flip and get her head submerged.

Dead Sea

  • Float. In the words of a fellow journalist, floating in the Dead Sea “is like being dunked in a vat of hair gel.” Its liquid feels more like glycerin than water, and you couldn’t sink if you tried. It’s crazy, and it’s fun. So make sure you have a camera handy. Lots of tourists take books or newspapers into the water with them and get their photos made as their mud-covered selves read. I prefer to carry nothing and throw my arms in the air—ta da! Floating in the Dead Sea is like nothing you’ve ever experienced.
  • Shower on the beach. Resorts have showers down on the beaches so bathers can wash off the salt before jumping in the pool or returning to their rooms. If you wash the salt from your body before you give yourself a wipe-down with a towel, you will avoid getting the cloth salty—and transferring salt back to your skin. That after-soak salt can make you feel itchy.
  • Mix it up at the spas. The modern resorts lining Jordan’s Dead Sea area allow purchase of day passes to their spas and beaches, so check out several facilities while you’re there. Golf carts ferry guests between some resorts for the price of a tip. Know that the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, though it has “spa” in the title, actually has only a medical facility the offers therapeutic massage. If you’re traveling with kids, take them to the pool designed for them at that resort. But get your luxury facial at the Marriot. And after soaking in the hot tubs at the Mövenpick, get a shampoo and “blow-out” at their Zara Spa. Then end one of your days with a swanky dinner at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea. These facilities are all within easy walking distance of each other.
  • Reserve at least one night for the Evason Ma’In Hot Springs Resort. Of all the places I have stayed in Jordan, I like Evason Ma’In Hot Springs best—starting with its padded swings inside the lobby. The nearby Panorama Restaurant, available by shuttle for a fee, offers breathtaking outdoor sunset views of the Dead Sea. You can retreat from otherwise monochromatic terrain in an oasis of color complete with palm trees and natural springs. All guests have swim privileges at a waterfall-fed pool adjacent to the hotel’s Six Senses spa. But I recommend paying extra for spa privileges. There you can step into a natural-sauna cave with your sweetie or swing on a hammock in the women’s-only swimming area. Either way, munch on healthy snacks poolside, and enjoy the sound of rushing waters. Ah-h-h.
  • Meditate in the holy sites. Jordan is the land where a cloud by day kept people from frying, and a pillar of fire by night warmed them. The Lord’s people wandered here for forty years, and He fed them with manna and quail. On this side of the Dead Sea, Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and Jesus once walked. On clear days Mount Nebo, the promontory from which Moses gazed into the Promised Land, offers a breathtaking view. Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the site of Elijah and John the Baptist’s wilderness as well as Jesus’ baptism site, is less than a thirty-minute drive. And nearby Madaba houses a famous sixth-century mosaic map of the Holy Land. If you want your own private local Christian guide, I recommend Samer Madanat ([email protected]).

In Jordan you may not eat literal manna or feast on sky-fallen quail, but the spiritual food of God’s presence will nourish you. So take some time away to pamper body and soul in the land where Father, Son, and Spirit stooped to join earth to heaven.

 

Disclosure: The Jordan Tourism Board covered most of the expenses for my trips, but JTB exercised no control over what I said or wrote. 

Sandra Glahn, Th.M., serves on the adjunct faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary, her alma mater, where she is editor in chief of Kindred Spirit magazine. She is a PhD candidate in Aesthetic Studies at the University of Texas/ Dallas, and is the author or coauthor of seventeen books, including the Coffee Cup Bible Study series. 

About Sandra Glahn

Dr. Sandra Glahn is Associate Professor in Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), where she is also editor-in-chief of DTS Magazine. She received her master's in theology from DTS and her PhD in Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/ Dallas. Dr. Glahn is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books, including the Coffee Cup Bible Study series. https://twitter.com/sandraglahn, http://www.linkedin.com/in/sglahn.

4 Comments

  1. Richard Mabry

    November 2, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Sandra, Our trip to Jordan was one of the last major trips I made with my late wife, Cynthia, and things then were just as you described them for your trip. I was with a group of doctors invited to teach members of the Army medical corps, at the invitation of the King and Queen, so we were treated royally (no pun intended) and felt extremely safe. Thanks for refreshing my memories, and for sharing your own.

  2. Maryl

    June 14, 2013 at 1:08 am

    It sound like paradise but there’s got to be something that didn’t please you besides the deadly waters if ingested. Is it safe for Americans to travel there? Did you ever feel threatened? How long did the glow last after you returned home?

  3. Sandra Glahn

    June 14, 2013 at 1:28 am

    Great questions. The airport experience did require patience.

    I felt completely safe the entire time. The Jordanians loved having us there. The glow lasted for weeks. I long to go back. Here’s a shot of the kids in the countryside who got us invited to tea:

    http://aspire2.blogspot.com/2012/09/yesterday-in-jordanian-countryside.html

  4. Marina Klima

    September 5, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I think Jordan is allied to the US? Anyway, I always wanted to go there and experience floating in the dead sea.

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Jordan’s Dead Sea Resorts: Pamper Body and Soul