The Dead Sea is Dying!!


At the start of this second week we were given a lengthy break because it was the end of Ramadan and the start of Eid al-Fitr, a three-day national holiday during which Muslims feast and celebrate with family and friends. On Friday (Friday and Saturday are the weekend days here) our institute went on a field trip to Ajloun Castle and had dinner in Jersah. The castle was built during the Crusades and was a peachy sand color that reminded me of the colors of sunsets at the New Jersey shore. We were able to climb all the way to the roof of the castle and have a 360 degree view of the neighboring towns and landscape. It was breathtaking! This area had the “forests” of Amman—the clusters of trees juxtaposed with the arid terrain of the valleys around Amman was incredible. Being able to see across the mountains to the Dead Sea, the beginnings of Damascus, and outskirts of  Israel was unbelievable.

We then left and went to another Iftar at a nearby restaurant in Jersah where we broke the fast, in a traditional way, with a date. After that came plates of hummus, pita, tabbouleh and meats. It was the most colorful assortment of food! If that was not enough we were served kanafa, which looked similar to a bird’s nest with crushed pistachio on top. The nest was fried wheat congealed with a honey so sweet your teeth hurt.

Having six days off of class gave us ample time to go on multiple excursions, including to visit the Roman citadel. After so many years of Latin and Classical studies it was interesting to see the Roman influences in Amman. As we climbed to the top of the citadel, we were left with a beautiful view of Amman. It was surreal to see how the buildings are literally built into the mountains of Amman so that the city “moves” with the terrain.

The following day we left to go to the Dead Sea with our program, making stops at Mount Nebo along the way.We stopped at a scenic outlook to look out at the vast expanse. As we left the bus we saw colossal mounts at a depth indescribable and unable to be captured with a camera. It appeared as though the mountains stretched out for miles. Their striations were colors of burgundy, slate and deep browns that blended to make a picture of seemingly prehistoric times. The mountains surrounded us. Everywhere I turned I saw vast expanses of rust colored mountains and plateaus. The scene was broken up by the narrow winding roads and the scattered huts and tents of Bedouin, native Jordanian, families. As we continued to Mount Nebo we stepped out to a view of trees scattered in an arid landscape. Our guide pointed out the place where Moses struck a rock and out sprung twelve streams. Farther out, through the haze, we could see the Dead Sea and the outskirts of both Jerusalem and Damascus. It was surreal to see the country at peace from so far away when there is so much internal turmoil. We could even see the two tall towers at the center of Amman! Considering we were at least an hour away from Amman it was amazing to be able to see the city center so clearly. The desolate and quiet landscape mirrored the atmosphere of the Mount where we viewed ancient mosaics that displayed intricate designs of animals and wild flowers.


When we finally reached the Dead Sea, we were anxious to enter the water and coat ourselves with the famous Dead Sea mud all over our bodies. Walking into the water was surprisingly difficult as the salt made my body incredibly buoyant. As my legs floated up, I had to work hard to remain on my back and not get the salt in my eyes. I was surprised to find that after some time the salt stung! As we covered ourselves in mud and sat under the sun to let the mud dry, I could feel it adhering to my skin. As I entered the water once again and washed the mud off, I felt refreshed. My skin was incredibly smooth and fresh feeling. When we had had enough of the salty, hot Dead Seaair, we left to go to the pool. One of my friends described the difference between the Dead Sea and the pool as the difference between jumping on a trampoline and jumping on the hard ground—you fully realized the feeling of sinking into the pool after the buoyancy of the Dead Sea.