At 1,350 feet (411m) below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the surface of the world (cf California’s Death Valley 85.5m). Called the Salt Sea in the Old Testament, this is the basin of the northern section of the Great Rift Valley that begins in Syria and eventually reaches Kenya and Tanzania in Central Africa.
The lake is 31 miles (5okm) long, 11 miles (17km) wide and 1,380 feet (420m) deep. With high atmospheric pressure and high temperatures all year round, the sea evaporates very fast. Although it is constantly fed by fresh water from the Jordan River and the nearby springs like those at Ein Feshkha, the evaporation is such that the Dead Sea has a salt content of over 30% – more than 10 times saltier than the Mediterranean Sea.
The salts are actually a mixture of many minerals so dense that they keep a person afloat. Called the Dead Sea because it used to be thought that no life at all existed in its water, it is now known that there is a wealth of micro-organisms that find the Dead Sea’s unique ecosystem an attractive home. The mineral rich waters have also been attracting humans for generations, both for its therapeutic waters and mud baths, and just to wonder at the constantly changing colors of its majestic – and often eerie – landscape.
*The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zo’ar. Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, … But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:23-26
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