10 fascinating facts about the Dead Sea

Sep 27, 2019 | Asia, Global travel, Israel, Jordan

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(Last updated on: 02/04/2020)

During my travels through Israel and Jordan I learnt that there are so many interesting facts about the Dead Sea! So today I would like to share some of them with you…

#1 The Dead Sea isn’t actually a sea

Funnily enough, it’s not. Despite its name, the Dead Sea is actually a salt lake. Also know as  saline lake, a salt lake is a landlocked body of water with a higher concentration of salt than other lakes. Sometimes, salt lakes actually have more salt than sea water.

Official saline lake classification (the percentage of salt dissolved in a body of water) is as follows:

Subsaline: 0.5-3%

Hyposaline: 3-20%

Mesoslaine 20-50%

Hypersaline > 50%

There are salt lakes all over the world. From Alicante to Australia, they’re often a popular source of natural beauty.

Note- when visiting the Dead Sea it is best not to shave that morning because the salt makes it STING!

#2 The Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth

The surface and shores of the Dead Sea are 430.5 metres, or 1,412 ft, below sea level. This makes it Earth’s lowest elevation on land. 

It’s also the deepest salt lake in the world, at 304m (997 ft) deep. It’s main northern basin is 50km (30 miles) long and 15km (9 miles) wide.

#3 There’s no life in the Dead Sea

Due to the saltiness, life can’t be sustained within the Dead Sea. That’s where the name comes from! The high salinity prevents macroscopic aquatic organism (fish and aquatic plants) from surviving in the water. 

Minuscule quantities of bacteria and microbial fungi can be found, though. In 1980, after a particularly rainy winter, the water in the Dead Sea turned red. It turned out to be a type of alga known as Dunaliella in the water nourishing some halobacteria. The halobacteria contained carotenoid, and was therefore red-pigmented. This caused the colour change in the water!

#4 No water flows out of the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is surrounded by land on three sides. The fourth side is open, but this where water enters the sea from rivers and streams; chiefly, the Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan River.

The land that borders the Dead Sea belongs to Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. While these countries are often synonymous with political trouble, they share a beautiful piece of nature that embodies calm and serenity.

My husband floating in the Dead Sea

#5 The Dead Sea is the source of most agricultural potassium worldwide

Potassium is often used as a fertiliser. In photosynthesis, potassium regulates the opening and closure of stomata – therefore, it relates the CO2 uptake. The potassium also triggers the activation of enzymes and is essential when it comes to producing Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP. This is an important energy source for plants and crop production.

Salt evaporation pans are used to extract salt from the Dead Sea. This is used to produce carnallite. The carnallite (potassium magnetite chloride) is further processed in order to create potassium chloride.

Two separate companies look after this. One is Israeli-owned, known as the Dead Sea Works. Founded in 1952, it produces potash, elemental bromine, caustic soda, magnesium metal and sodium chloride.

The other company is Arab Potash. Located in Jordan, they primarily produce potash, as well as sodium chloride and bromine.

#6 The Dead Sea scrolls were found here

Given the name, that’s pretty obvious. 800+ manuscripts were found in caves near the Dead Sea, written on either papyrus or animal skin. They are virtually the only surviving biblical documents written before the second century. Discovered in the 1940s and 50s, you can see them now in the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Read more about theDead Sea Scrolls here.

#7 Cleopatra loved the Dead Sea

If you’re into mythology or know a lot of facts about the Dead Sea, you probably know this. But if not, it’s said that Cleopatra used the Dead Sea as a way of maintaining her beauty. She used the salts as an exfoliant, paying particular attention to any rough skin. Though she didn’t know it, salt from the Dead Sea is high in the following beneficial elements:

Calcium

Iodine

Magnesium

Sodium

Potassium

Bromide

All of these have different skincare benefits. Whether it’s to cleanse, balance or moisturise, salt from the Dead Sea is dream for the skin.

As well as the salt, Cleopatra used the Dead Sea mud to look after herself, her skin and her beauty. This is something that has been carried forward to modern day. Dead Sea mud eases eczema, psoriasis, arthritis and more, according to some sufferers!

#8 You can float in the Dead Sea

Due to the large amount of salt, the water is much denser than fresh water. This means that tourists and visitors can effortlessly float in the Dead Sea! It’s one of the most unique “swimming” experiences the world has to offer, and you can bob along reading a book quite happily too.

There’s a few things to note before you float in the Dead Sea, though…

  • Don’t jump in or splash around. The water is so salty, it will really sting if you get it in your eyes.
  • Shaving, waxing and plucking beforehand (on the same day) is not recommended. The salt will burn your open pores.
  • You might have to pay to float in the Dead Sea. It depends which area you’re in, but it has been turned into a tourist trap in some parts. Research where you are where the best free area is for floating in the Dead Sea.
  • Wear flip flops or sandals down to the water’s edge. The mud and stones on the beaches can get HOT.
  • Cake some of that Dead Sea mud on your body pre-float. Your skin will thank you for it!
Watch this video to see if a bowling ball floats in the Dead Sea!

#9 The Dead Sea is a great place for hay fever sufferers

One of the most interesting facts about the Dead Sea: while no life can thrive in the water, the lake itself and the surrounding areas are great for humans. The air is oxygen-rich! The pollen count is low! This means the area is somewhat of a haven for people suffering from asthma, hay fever and other similar issues.

Seeing what positions we can get ourselves into whilst floating in the water

#10 The Dead Sea is dying

As with a lot of nature, the Dead Sea might not be around forever. Experts say that since 1930, the water’s surface has almost halved. Jordan plan to convey seawater from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea to aid in conservation efforts. You can read more about the project, known as the Jordan National Red Sea Development Project or JRSP here.

There you have it – 10 fascinating facts about the Dead Sea! Perfect for floating in, beneficial for your skin, and just an all round interesting place.

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Hi, am Dr Hayley Stainton

I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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