I’m of the mind that the best way to connect with a new place is to get in the car and drive. We left Jerusalem and passed through beautiful farm lands, heading due east across the country. We saw shepherds tending their flock on the side of the road and men riding horses bareback. As the lush greenery gave way to the desert, I hollered “Camels! Camels!” and the mountainous desert topography left us breathless. When I’d originally pictured the Middle East, this was the type of dry, unforgiving terrain I’d expected.
The road down, yes down, to the Dead Sea is what a motorcyclist might call a road-gasm: smooth, new black pavement making dramatic, sweeping turns back and forth. We dipped below sea level, then to -100, -200 feet, before arriving at the lowest place on earth at 1,300 feet below sea level! Did I mention that the weather was perfect for the whole drive and in the desert? Winter is the ideal time to visit as it’s warm enough to lay outside, but not uncomfortable at all.
The shores of Ein Bokek are lined with resorts and we found the best of the lot: the Isrotel. a large sign out front welcomed us to the 2011 Dead Sea Bridge Festival. One quick look around and we realized the hotel was very nice indeed, but covered with altakaka’s [old people]. I went to check-in while Jamie took a look around. Our reservation wasn’t in the system. I removed our confirmation from my trusty manilla folder and quickly learned that we’d made our reservation for 16/2/2011, not 16/3–we were a month late. After about 15 minutes of ‘conversation,’ with Jamie eyeing me nervously from across the lobby, we had a fantastic room on the 8th floor, at the discounted Bridge Festival rate no less!
The grounds were quite attractive. With the spa booked solid, we were lucky to find availability at the Daniel Hotel next door. After a poolside resort style lunch, we headed down to the spa. Both hotels have very similar spa’s and we did the circuit. First, we took a soak in the dead-sea water pool. What a hoot! Let’s just say that buoyancy is not an issue and that it will sting any open cut or sore on your body. Get a drop of it in your mouth, and it’s as if your just stuck a 9 volt battery to your tongue. What, you’ve never tried that?! We spent time in the sulphur pool, which boasts myriad restorative powers, but stinks like hell. Then traditional stops like the schvitz [steam room], cold plunge and jacuzzi rounded things off before treatment time.
First treatment was a Dead Sea mud wrap! This would be my first mud wrap and I was excited. You enter a massage type room with a plastic wrapped table and they have you put on this disposable bikini bottom and wait. So there I am, wearing a tissue paper banana hammock, lying on a table, listening to Hebrew spa music wondering what I’d gotten myself into. The spa-girl then enters the room with a big bucket filled with a warm dark grey pudding and proceeds to slather it all over my body. Then she wraps a plastic blanket around me, dims the lights and leaves me in the dark for 30 minutes. Arms glued to my side, I took advantage of the opportunity for silent meditation but quickly dozed off, then woke to a mighty itch in my ear for which I could do nothing. It was fun showering off after and I must admit my skin did, and still does, look radiant!
We each got hour long massage. All in all, not a bad day. We returned to our hotel pool, which really had the most unattractive crowd of overweight, Russian senior citizens known to man. We spent more time in the Jacuzzi. While I lounged in a pool chair Jamie was still soaking next to a rather large woman. I joking made a flirtatious tiger face at Jamie…and old woman smiled back at me and winked. Gross!
After an evening stroll on the terrace we went to the dinner buffet! Some dishes were ok, but most were severely lacking…not the best return on investment for 160 Shekels per person. I felt like I was in the catskills. We turned in early and slept like babies.