My first stop was yesterday was Masada, a hill fortress built by King Herod as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. After the construction of the complex, there were many other historic points to mention. The most famous was the siege of the fortress by the Romans in 72 AD where the Jews killed themselves rather than be enslaved by the Roman Empire. Another story that I found interesting was of a group of Byzantine Hermit Monks who lived and prayed on the high mountaintop in order to be closer to god. In order to get food, they had a donkey that would walk down the hillside by itself where a farmer on the shores of the Dead Sea would load it up with vegetables. The donkey would then walk back up the 400 meter hilltop by itself, daily!
My plan was originally to walk up the hill, but when I took a look at how high it actually was combined with the scorching heat of the day, I bought a ticket for the cable car. This 17 Kilogram camera bag is starting to take a toll on me after more than three months of lugging it around.
The complex itself is quite amazing when you realize that it is over 2,000 years old. My favourite structure was the 7th Century Byzantine Church. The mosaics on the floor and walls were beautiful.
After the history lesson and beautiful vistas of the Dead Sea, it was time to get up close and personal with something I had been looking forward to since I was a child. I saw a documentary with my father when I was very young about the Dead Sea and it completely fascinated me. First of all, it is the lowest elevation of dry land on the entire planet at 423 metres (1,388 ft) below sea level. Secondly, the chemical composition of the water prevents most organisms from surviving. The 35% salinity allows only small amounts of resilient bacteria to survive.
Aside from the amazing science behind it, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. As soon as I entered the water, I bobbed on the surface like a cork. It was incredible. It actually felt like I was weightless and flying. Aside from turning my feet into chopped hamburger on the sharp salt formations growing on the rocks, it was one of the highlights of the entire expedition. There was black mineral mud that many people were rubbing all over their bodies, but I opted not to. The mud smelled horrible and I still had a long drive ahead of me.
Today is Good Friday and I am heading to Jerusalem for Easter weekend. Stay tuned, I think this next series of images is going to be special.