Water is synonymous to life, but everyone knows this does not apply to the vastness and depths of the Dead Sea. English photographer and wanderlust Maya Beano recollects the time she braved and swam on one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world.
In the written words of Beano, she shares the experience with Lomography through this excerpt.
20th of December, 2014
I can’t remember the last time the world felt so peaceful. It used to be just a splish and splash when I was younger, but today, it felt like I was floating away in every direction. We drove to the Dead Sea this afternoon, just a 45-minute journey from the place I called home for 15 years. We took the slightly longer route too, spiralling down those mountain roads to the lowest point on Earth. Emily, as per her usual inquisitive self, kept tabs on the altitude on her phone app.
“It’s gone from 1,100 metres to -400 metres in, like, half an hour!” she exclaimed.
I nodded quietly – I was in my happy place. It felt so surreal to be exploring familiar lands with my best friends. Seeing these places through their eyes made me feel like I, too, was visiting for the first time. It brought back the magic – my mind was tearful. We were in Petra just yesterday, and I saw more of it than I ever had before. I was so grateful to have Liz with us. She insisted we climb the thousand steps to the top of the world where a handwritten sign awaited us, “Welcome to the Grand Canyon View of Jordan”. Naturally, the thing to do to recover from all this altitude sickness was to then venture below sea level.
Past the winding desert roads, I spotted the horizon. I think it’s just sea mist, but from our side, the mountains of Jericho always look like they’re being engulfed by a hazy storm. They looked as beautiful as ever, but something felt off as my eyes traced the shoreline. The sea was so much bigger 10 years ago when I last saw it.
I remembered my dad mentioning that the shoreline is receding so dramatically that the Dead Sea might disappear in less than 50 years. When he was growing up, there had been talk about preserving it by building a tunnel to connect it to the Red Sea 150 miles away, but these plans never came to fruition. The river that used to feed the Dead Sea is no longer running, and the sea now sits all alone in a hot desert.
It occurred to me that I’d never visited this place in the wintertime before. The air was heavy when we got out of the car, but I had a feeling it would start to get very chilly after sunset. Liz still felt sick after yesterday’s sunstroke in Petra. We spent all of last night cooling her forehead with a cloth soaked in icy water, and I was so worried when her body temperature hit 40 °C. It never gets too hot or sunny in England, so a sunstroke in December was a novelty for her. I’ve grown up under the desert sun, but even I have never been particularly fond of the heat. I remember desperately lathering on sun cream everyday before I left for school.
Liz decided to rest for a couple of hours and rejoin us in the sea at sunset, but Emily couldn’t wait to get in the water. I glimpsed her pulling a towel and goggles out of her rucksack in the distance.
“Emily! What are you doing with those goggles? You can’t dive in the Dead Sea! The water’s way too salty and dense, remember.”
She glanced at me with disbelief, and before I could stop her, and before I could stop her, she dived in only to emerge two seconds later with a grimace on her face. Her lips, nose and just about every scratch on her body must have burnt like never before. I was relieved when she eventually started laughing.
“Emilyyyy! What were you thinking?!” I asked.
“I didn’t believe you! You’re always joking!” she said.
We chuckled. I could feel a breeze in the air and realised that the sun was about to set. It was time to wake Liz up. We spent the rest of the evening floating in the sea, gently salting our wounds under the painted sky.