Sunday, January 10, 2010

It may not be Manhattan

But we can be at the Dead Sea in little over an hour. No skyscrapers, it's true but stunning views of rocky cliffs - brown, craggy hills tufted with swirling patterns of the sea perhaps created in some long ago millennium.

The view is truly an unusual one, and it's made even more so by it's proximity to the big city - Jerusalem. As one descends the road from town, the view becomes increasingly space age, as regular flora and fauna give way to brown - with little relief. Towns are tucked into the hill around you - Ma'alei Adumim and it's spinoffs - Mishor Adumim and Mitzpe Adumim. Bits of green abound near the towns - surprisingly lushly in spots, which always makes one wonder about the water used to grow such greenery. Bedouin encampments are scattered along the side of the road, some quite crude looking, others complete with satellite dishes and water tanks. I always think of the women and how they manage keeping house under such conditions - tin roofs, patchy walls made from fabric, tarp and other simple stuffs. Broiling in the summer and freezing in the winter. Even if one likes living off the grid, this doesn't look pleasurable to my modern eyes.

Signs along the road mark the descent in terms of sea level. The Dead Sea shimmers in the distance, an impossibly, still body of water, surprisingly blue from afar. On the other side of the coast, Jordan beckons, it's mountains rugged, red hued and impressive looking.

We turn right at the bottom, driving past signposts with an ancient pedigree - Qumran and Nahal Kidron. At Mineral Beach, we park and change into our suits in the car - one of my favorite rusticating things to do. We head for the hot pool and sink in with a grateful sigh. Lovely if a bit tingly in all the areas that you'd forgotten about - the cut on your hand, the rough patch of skin on your elbows, etc.  Follow that with a walk down to the Dead Sea itself and the obligatory mud rub and wash up in the Sea. Sit and relax. Eat a bit. Read. Work on the Sunday crossword puzzle. Get cold. Head back up to the hot pool for a final soak and float - we've gotten good at managing the weightless feeling in the water and can even do it on our bellies without getting any water in our mouths.

Driving back home after changing back into dry clothes - yes, we could have done it in the bathroom but we didn't want to - we feel rested, relaxed, sort of dry and salty but our skin is soft and smooth to the touch.  The road is quiet, the light softer as the day begins to fade towards evening.

And Manhattan glistens in the distance - a mirage, 6000 miles away.

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