I am finally back and ready to tell some stories about this past weekend! I did a total of about 7 hours of homework yesterday (including 2 and a half at a popular café called Turtle Green that has some very good tea.
BUT! There are a lot of stories about the amazing experiences had at the Dead Sea. I probably won’t do the story much justice because the entire time was absolutely spectacular and there are so many memories of the weekend that I hope to remember for a long, long time.
The descent into the valley of the Dead Sea takes about 15 minutes by car, and I’m talking about the time when your ears really start popping. At 423 meters below sea level, my hearing even disappeared for about 5 minutes while my ears felt like they were about to explode. The views down were remarkable and no photo out of the window of our taxi could do it justice. The road to the sea winds around the surrounding mountains, revealing views of communities nestled between the hills and panoramas of the valley and dessert below. We arrived at the Holiday Inn Resort towards 5:00pm and I’m just going to give my parents a shoutout for giving me this wonderful birthday present. With five pools, 2 hot tubs, a private beach on the coast of the Dead Sea among tons of other ridiculous features, it was by far the nicest resort I’ve ever stayed at.
Checking in, we were ushered over to a separate table where I was informed that as a VIP I was getting an upgrade on the room that me and my two roommates, Zaynab and Molly were sharing. So the next 2 days we had a beautiful room with a terrace that was about 20 meters away from the pools. Checking the “Yes I want to become a points member of the IHG” box at checkout was a really, really good idea on my part. (Way better than packing 5 different shirts and only one pair of shorts for the entire weekend, oops).
I’m going to let the views of the resort do most of the talking. That evening we soaked for a few hours by the pool, ran down to the Dead Sea right before sunset and rubbed exfoliating mud all over ourselves and went for a long float. Floating in the Dead Sea is an experience that I think everyone needs to have. It sets any small cuts or scratches (or open eyes) on fire, but besides that, it is just a beautiful feeling to lay on the water, in absolutely any position you please, and float out 50, 100, 200, or 300 meters from shore.
Afterwards, my two girlfriends and I went to get dinner and were soon joined by all the boys that were there from the Georgetown program with us. It was really awesome that 8 of us decided to go to a resort for the weekend, it made for really fun company. After a long time of talking at dinner and after dinner, and several glasses of wine, the eight of us decided to go down to the beach. Sitting on that lounge chair with my friends, staring at the lights from the other East Bank Hotels and the distant lights of Palestine and Israel, I felt completely at peace. And I felt so lucky for that experience and all of the others I had had and would have in Jordan.
After 5 minutes to half an hour of peace (there is no time at the Dead Sea!) a few of my friends and I decided to go for a night float. My friends and I went swimming in the direction of Palestine. It was so remarkable to be right there, next to the land that everyone has been arguing about for decades, the patch of land we have heard numerous lectures about.
But in a sequence of events that will only happen to me and my life, I rolled over splashing in the water with terrible Dead Sea technique. What happens when you have terrible Dead Sea technique is that you splash the water into your eyes. And then your eyes burn instantly and you are blind. So I was blinded in the Dead Sea for possibly an hour, and got pulled to the beach of the Holiday Inn by one of my friends like a barge behind a towboat. Getting to the fresh water shower on shore was an absolutely lovely feeling.
Friday morning we got out of bed around 10:00am because breakfast ended at 10:30. Breakfast at that hotel cost us 14 JD and I don’t think I’ve stuffed myself with food that much in my life, because we decided to become camels and eat food twice a day. We filled up napkins with buns and pastries to eat for the rest of the day and headed down to the pool.
This resort at the Dead Sea was a lot like a vacation in the Bahamas mixed with the MC-ing and games that you would find on a luxury cruise ship. I definitely felt bad about “not delving into local culture” while being the Middle East but honestly, that is the best way I can think of spending my birthday ever. In the middle of the day, I went back down to the Dead Sea where my favorite photo from that weekend was taking thanks to a friend’s go pro was taken. The rest of the day was filled with swimming in different pools, running between pool and hot tub and cheering for the lifeguards that chose to entertain the rowdy American college students and jump off of the roof of the pool bar.
That evening after our dinner, three of my friends and I decided to climb up the trash-covered hill of unrefined dark brown sand that felt like velvet and soft dust under our feet. Molly told us at the day before that a cab driver had mentioned “If you go to the Dead Sea, make sure you watch the sunset over the Dead Sea,” and that’s exactly what we did. Again, there was a lot of introspection on my part about how happy and lucky I was. That was truly the highlight of that evening.
Towards 8pm, one of my girlfriends and I ordered a few delicious lemon-mint drinks and ended up meeting a lot of locals who were impressed with our Arabic, corrected us, told us we were super weird for speaking Fasha, and then ended up chatting with a girl from Amman who is 17 and was elated when in our strange, formal Arabic we told her that she should pursue her dream of being a fashion designer and studying in Milan (the locals just don’t understand our hippy American beliefs of following your heart in your career). That night I jumped off the same pool bar roof while being yelled at by security, swam in the hot tub after convincing a life guard that no, we can stay here for 5, 10, 20, 45 minutes. At the end of the evening, we ended up sitting at a table at a restaurant with a group of 30-something men and women and yelling out “Where is Sheikh-Abdullah?!?!?!” — a nickname that one of our Georgetown friends gave himself and used for every introduction he made that weekend.
Despite being sleep deprived and dehydrated from sitting out in the sun and splashing around in the pool and the Dead Sea non stop, I woke up at 9am to go for a last float in the Sea and sit covered head to toe in magical mud at the shore of the lowest body of water on Earth. As I floated on my back on the surface of the salty, blinding, magical healing water, I tried to memorize every detail of that moment to remember it forever, sorry for being super cheesy.
I am so sorry that this post was written over the course of 4 days, and that I definitely did not do the stories and the details any justice, and that this is only the Dead Sea part of my birthday, but the second half is coming!!!
Also, we have a group trip planned to Jeresh tomorrow so hopefully I will catch up on posting about everything by the end of this weekend, right as Ramadan is about to start!