“My Dead Sea stroll to the spa began unpromisingly. An old Jordan hand chided me for breaking every social code in the land: wet hair (suggestive of steamy sex, not a good look in Ramadan, when romps are banned till sunset); exposed nape of the neck (erotic provocation); bare knees (erogenous zone); looking men in the eye (looser morals than Salome, that local minx). But the irrepressible staff smiled serenely at my crimes, while possibly consigning me to Sodom, just down the track in Biblical terms.
For those squeamish about swimming with fishes, the Dead Sea soothes all fears: between Jordan and the West Bank, the water contains nothing living but you and algae. No banana boats, no beach boys, no backchat, no biting beasties. Just a mirage of silence, solitude, salinity and slipperiness, the oily silk of the Dead Sea.
Except that the only other living soul in the sea happened to be immune to spiritual musings. “The monsters of the deep are those Israelis over the water,” volunteered my new best friend, a blubbery Lebanese businessman. “Bring them over here, coat them in mud and make them talk to us before it dries off.” Lesson in muddy Middle Eastern politics over, Mr Blubber bobbed off, floating towards Sodom and Gomorrah. I was left to slather off the mud and float away towards Jericho, watching the sun set crimson over Jerusalem. No Cleopatra skin but definitely a Dead Sea moment.”