Floating in the Dead Sea – Aqaba, Jordan
Floating in the Dead Sea has been on my bucket list for a very long time, so I was excited to finally get the chance to visit.
Our hotel had a private beach and people on hand to dig out pots of black mud. We were a bit unsure what the protocol was, so sat back for a bit and took our lead from the Jordanian families.
The process is quite simple really: Shower, get covered in mud, float in the water till the mud comes off, have another shower and repeat if necessary.
In reality it’s a little trickier than that – the mud is massively sticky, the beach is made of sharp enough pebbles that you want to leave your flip flops on, so they also get caked with mud and finally the sea water does nothing to wash away the mud. Add to that how muddy the shower taps and tray are and you can see how inevitable it is that you end up back in the room still finding bits of mud everywhere!
The best part is definitely the floating. The extreme saltiness of the water means it easily supports a body. Something not mentioned in any of the guide books: once you’re floating the buoyancy makes it tricky to get your legs beneath you to stand up – it’s easier to float over to the shore and push off from the bottom.
Unsurprisingly if you do manage to get a face full the water tastes disgusting, and I’m told that if the salty water gets into an open wound it’s agony!
The private beach could have been better, but when we visited Aqaba the local public beach was a shambles. It was packed with people and had litter everywhere – mostly half-eaten food from picnics.
Aqaba Hotel Tips
Don’t stay at the Radisson Blu Tala Bay Resort – it’s a prime example of vote stuffing on TripAdvisor – note the number of 5* reviews from first time reviewers, whereas regular contributors all give it 2 or 3 and complain about everything. Stupidly this was the only place I didn’t research much as the combination of the Radisson name, 5 star rating and a private beach suggested it would be half way decent.
Everything had clearly been designed by a particularly short architect or interior designer that doesn’t regularly stay in hotels as a non-solo traveller – no storage space, doors that wouldn’t close, and bizarrely low seats/bed/desk and sink. The worst was the seemingly unnecessary metal studs poking out in the bathroom floor, where it’s common to walk around barefoot in the dark…
When we dropped in to use the bathrooms at the DoubleTree Hilton in town it looked far better run, or there are plenty of guest houses in a far more central location.
The town of Aqaba is by far the most touristy place we visited in Jordan, which combined with the high prices and low quality of most of the restaurants didn’t really endear it to us. Wander up the back streets to find a few more laid back places that actually offer Jordanian food rather than the pizza and burgers on the two main strips.