The Dead Sea lies at the lowest point of dry land on earth, more than 1,300 feet below sea level. Completely landlocked, it is actually a saltwater lake, and its only major source of water replenishment comes from the River Jordan. Tourists are drawn from all over the world to bathe in this unique body of water, which is bordered by Israel on the west and Jordan on the east.
“Swimming” in the Dead Sea
In actuality, it is nearly impossible to swim in the Dead Sea. Because of the high salt content of the water, people who bathe in the Dead Sea can actually float on the surface of the water. Several photos taken show bathers casually reading newspapers or books while relaxing on the water with no visible means of support. The unique salt and chemical content of the waters make it toxic upon contact to fish and nearly all marine life. The only living beings that reside in the dead sea are bacteria and an especially hardy species of algae. Contact with the water is not toxic to human skin, however, the water may cause stinging in open cuts or wounds, according to Frommer’s.
The high salt and rich mineral content of the Dead Sea waters is what makes it possible for bathers to float on its surface without effort. This unique chemical composition also gives the waters of the Dead Sea special therapeutic value to bathers. According to the Department for Jewish Zionist Education, Cleopatra and Herod the Great visited the Dead Sea for its curative powers. Mud from the Dead Sea has been beneficial in treating psoriasis and rheumatic disorders. Among the minerals found in the waters and mud of the Dead Sea are bromide, magnesium and potash as well as mineral salt.