Located on the border between Israel and Jordan, the Dead Sea is one of the most intriguing natural phenomena on Earth. Aside for some microorganisms and algae, this salt water lake is completely devoid of life. There’s no seaweed, fish or any other creatures found in or around its turquoise waters. Find out more with these interesting facts about the Dead Sea.
1. The Dead Sea is one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth, with almost 10 times more salt than ordinary seawater. This is because water flows into the Dead Sea from one main tributary, the River Jordan. It then has no way to get out of the lake and so is forced to evaporate.
The soaring hot and dry conditions of this region mean that large quantities of water are evaporated. This leads to the salt and other minerals becoming more and more concentrated. In fact, it’s estimated that in the whole of the Dead Sea there is about 37 billion tonnes of salt.
2. The high salt and mineral content of the Dead Sea mean that this body of water has powerful healing properties. It’s a popular destination for treating skin problems such as acne, psoriasis and cellulite, as well as muscle ache and arthritis.
The Dead Sea is therefore the biggest free spa on Earth, drawing both tourists and locals alike. However, if you want to indulge further, you’ll find plenty of treatments at the hotels and spas along its shores.
3. Its healing waters have been sought after even since Biblical times. Herod the Great, who reigned between 37 to 4 BC, built one of the world’s first health spas along its shores. According to legend, Cleopatra also loved the Dead Sea and used its products as part of her beauty regime.
4. The Dead Sea’s high salt levels mean that people can easily float on its surface due to the natural buoyancy. Bobbing around like a cork is not only a fun-filled experience, but a great way to relax after seeing Jordan and Israel’s other top sights.
5. Alongside being incredibly salty, the Dead Sea is famous for being the lowest point on Earth. Its surface measures around 423 metres below sea level.
6. Highway 90, the world’s lowest road, runs along the Israeli and West Bank shores of the Dead Sea. It measures approximately 393 metres below sea level.
7. Sunbathing at the Dead Sea has less of a sunburn risk than other destinations. This is due to its location below sea level as harmful UV rays are filtered through three natural layers. These include an extra atmospheric layer, an evaporation layer above the Dead Sea and a thick ozone layer. (Though we still recommend wearing sunscreen!)
8. The Dead Sea was home to one of the most important discoveries in modern archaeology. In 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 11 caves near the ruins of Qumran on its northwestern shore. These ancient manuscripts date from around 250 BC to 68 AD.
9. An unusual feature of the Dead Sea is that it spits up small pebbles and blocks of asphalt from deep seeps to its surface. Ancient Egyptians used to import this to use in their mummification processes.
10. Whilst the Dead Sea is one of Israel’s most popular tourist destinations, it’s disappearing at an alarming rate. Its surface level is dropping by more than one metre every year and it’s only half the length it was just a century ago.
This is due to water being diverted from the River Jordan and extracted from the Dead Sea for developments nearby. However, Israel and Jordan signed an agreement in 2015 to invest $9 million to stabilize its water level. So there’s definitely some hope for this natural wonder.