THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea lies at the heart of the Great Syrian-African rift valley, it is flanked by the Judean Mountains on the west, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordon and the Mountains of Moab on the east, the Jordan Valley and Sea of Galilee to the north and the Negev Desert and the Red Sea to the south.
67 kilometres (42 miles) long and 18 kilometres (11 miles) at its widest point, the Dead Sea is situated at the lowest point on earth, more than 1,320 feet/400 meters below sea level. The Dead Sea is what is known as a hypersaline lake, that is a landlocked body of water that contains significant concentrations of sodium chloride or other minerals salts, with saline levels surpassing that of ocean water. It is also endorheic, that is, it is a closed drainage basin that retains water and allows no outflow to other external bodies of water such as rivers or oceans.
Rainfall is scarce in the Dead Sea region, barely 100mm (4″) per year in the northern part and 50mm (2″) in the southern part. This aridity is due to the ‘rainshadow’ effect of the Judaean Mountains. The only major water source flowing into the Dead Sea is the Jordan River, although there are small perennial springs under and around the Dead Sea, forming pools and quicksand along the edges.
The area is also naturally beautiful with desert, mountain ranges, canyons, cool springs and a range of archaeological sites dotted along the coast. There is also a rich array of interesting flora and fauna in this area, including leopards, wolves, eagles, vultures and endangered species such as Ibex and Hyrax. The wetlands surrounding the Dead Sea support several species such as the indigenous ‘Dead Sea Sparrow’ and serves as an important resting and breeding site for millions of migratory birds crossing between Europe and Africa each year.
An hour’s drive from Jerusalem and 20 minutes away from the southern Israeli city of Arad, the Dead Sea is recognized as a truly unique geological phenomenon and the world’s largest natural health spa.
PLACE IN HISTORY
Throughout history the Dead Sea has been known by many names. In the bible it is known as the ‘Salt Sea’ or the Sea of the Arabah’. Post biblical names have included ‘Sea of Sodom’, ‘Sea of Lot’, Sea of Asphalt’, the ‘Stinking Sea’ and in the period of the Crusaders it was called ‘The Devil’s Sea’.
Jesus, John the Baptist, King David, King Herod, King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba and Aristotle who wrote in detail about these remarkable waters, were all closely linked to the Dead Sea and its surrounding areas.
Although legend states that it was the Queen of Sheba who first discovered the Dead Sea after being presented with a gift of Dead Sea salts from King Solomon, it was later, during the Egyptian conquest, that Queen Cleopatra was one of the first to recognize the curative, cosmetic and therapeutic properties of the Dead Sea. She in fact obtained the exclusive rights to build a cosmetic and pharmaceutical factory in the area.
This area also became home to the Nabateans, an ancient Arab tribe who first appeared in the sixth century BC. The Nabateans were the keepers of the secret spice route from Yemen and Saudi Arabia to the Mediterranean. It is the Nabateans that carved out their capital Petra from the red rocks of the Edomite mountains. The Nabateans were one of the earliest people to harvest and trade minerals from the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a rich source of Bitumen and this was traded to the Egyptians for embalming their mummies.
In Roman times the Essenes settled Qumran on the northern shores of the Dead Sea as a place of refuge. The Essenes were a brotherhood of holy men and women that established and lived together as a community over two thousand years ago.
Then on Masada, a large mountaintop fortress which King Herod transformed into a winter palace in 35 BC, a small band of Jewish zealots held out against the might of the Roman Legion to eventually take their lives rather than surrender to the Roman Empire.
Since the Byzantine era, the remoteness and peacefulness of the region attracted Greek Orthodox monks and they built monasteries such as Saint-George in Wadi Kelt and Mar Saba in the Judean Desert, which became places of pilgrimage. A visit to the Dead Sea region would not be complete without a visit to the amazing monasteries that have been built on the cliff walls. In the fourth century ascetism (living life simply and religiously) become popular among Christians who wanted to live as Jesus had lived. The Judean Desert became an ideal destination for these monks who built their monasteries, some of which are carved into the stone faces of the desert cliffs.
Throughout time, Bedouin tribes have had a continuous presence in the area and since the 1960’s the Dead Sea has become a major tourist attraction, not only for pleasure but as a means to cure dermatological, arthritic and respiratory conditions.
THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Between 1946 and 1956 around 981 ancient texts were discovered in caves in the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran, around 2 kilometers inland from the northwest shore of the Dead Sea and from where they derived their name.
These texts are of great religious, historical and linguistic significance because they include the second oldest known surviving manuscripts of works later included in the Hebrew Bible.
The majority of these scrolls were written in Hebrew, with some in Greek and also Aramaic (including some in regional dialects such as Nabataean).
The scrolls are understood to date from the last three centuries BCE and the first century CE and thought to have been penned by the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect of holy men and women.
As a major tourist attraction, visitors from all over the world travel to the Dead Sea. A popular destination for all travelers to Israel, the opportunity to apply the mineral rich sea mud and bask in the sun, then float while reading a book on this unique body of water is an activity that most tourists strive to participate in.
Set along the almost 70km shoreline of the Dead Sea, there are a choice selection of hotels, the majority of which offering their own in-house health and beauty spas that offer a multitude of therapies and cosmetic treatments, from thermo-mineral baths, body treatments, cosmetic mud wraps and the like.
With its choice hotels, health clinics and beauty spas, the rugged desert landscape and the local historical archaeological sites, the Dead Sea is a truly unique holiday destination.
In addition to the general holidaymakers, the Dead Sea has become a health/treatment destination for thousands of visitors each year. There are clinics at the Dead Sea that specialize in the treatment of skin, joint and eye disease as well as the treatment of respiratory and hypertension problems.
Lying 400 meters below sea level, there is a high atmospheric pressure witch results in higher oxygen saturation and a unique attenuation of specific solar waves. This combined with a concentrated salt content from the Dead Sea, thermo-sulfur springs and black mud deposits along the Dead Sea coast is what makes the Dead Sea truly unique and a ‘mini universe’.
The Dead Sea enjoys an average of 330 days of sunshine per year. What is unique to the Dead Sea is that the sunshine is filtered through three natural layers; an extra 400 meters of atmosphere, a dense haze of aerosols caused by the evaporation process from the Dead Sea and an ozone layer. These three layers act as a unique filtering screen that reduces the radiation intensity of the UVA rays and more importantly the shorter, more harmful UVB rays. Climatic Research has shown that there is a significant reduction in UVB rays in the Dead Sea (around 10% below a wavelength of 310 nm and around 3.6% UVA rays) than in other locations. This phenomenon enables safer and more prolonged exposure to the sun. This makes the Dead Sea the ideal environment to treat a variety of skin disorders, where exposure to solar irradiation is the most important therapeutic factor.
There are numerous Solaria situated at the Dead Sea for public use, at Ein Bokek, Ein Gedi and at the northern part of the Dead Sea. These areas are equipped for sun-bathing and more importantly for Heliotherapy – the treatment of disease by means of natural sunlight.
Located 400 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea area has the highest recorded barometric pressure resulting in 6-8% high oxygen saturation than the air at Sea Level. In addition, the air along the shores of the Dead Sea is rich in assorted minerals caused by the evaporation of Dead Sea water especially magnesium and bromine whose relaxing effects help reduce nervous tension. Also, the air at the Dead Sea is virtually unpolluted and low in pollen. The paucity of allergens is due to the sparse vegetation, the desert environment and the absence of heavy CO² producing industries. Finally, due to very low rainfall the climate of the Dead Sea is dry and comfortable throughout most of the year. This combination of factors makes the Dead Sea ideal for the treatment of a variety of respiratory disorders like asthma, chronic lung disease, cystic fibrosis and heart diseases.
DEAD SEA WATER
The Dead Sea is a terminal lake with no outlet for its water except evaporation. Over millions of years, a combination of the hot dry air and the evaporation process have made it one of the saltiest lakes in the world. In fact the salinity of the Dead Sea is around 33.7% which makes it around 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. It is this high salt content that enables people to effortlessly float on the Dead Sea as they magically lose a third of their body weight upon entering the water. It is this salinity that makes it a harsh and uninhabitable environment for animals and the Dead Sea obtains its name from the fact that no living organisms such as fish and aquatic plants are able to survive. As many as 21 minerals are present in the Dead Sea including Magnesium, Calcium, Bromine and Potassium. Bathing in Dead Sea water is acclaimed for nourishing the skin, easing rheumatic discomfort, activating the circulatory system and relaxing the nerves. It is this unique buoyancy that enables freer, easier movement in the water therefore enhancing physiotherapy effects. Bathing in the mineral rich waters provide an invaluable aid in the treatment of a variety of skin disorders and ailments in addition to softening and nourishing the skin.
Several hot springs can be found along the shores of the Dead Sea. With the high hydrogen sulfide and mineral content and salinity, soaking in these springs has been known to ease rheumatic pain. Also, soaking in the thermo-mineral pools has a remarkably relaxing effect on the nervous system and is also effective in the treatment of various joint disorders.
The drinking water in the Dead Sea Region has been pumped from underground aquifers or has come directly from fresh water springs, some of which have are known to have a light selenium content. Selenium is known to strengthen the body’s immune system and this unique mineral water is sold commercially throughout the world.
DEAD SEA MUD
The Dead Sea is renowned for its medicinal black mud. This mud is made up of a homogeneous mixture of minerals, organic elements from the shoreline as well as earth. When applied to the skin as a ‘body wrap’, the heat-retaining properties of the mud can help to relieve muscular and nervous tensions, improve blood circulation and alleviate rheumatic pain. The mud is also effective in cleansing and softening the skin, making it a vital ingredient in skin-care cosmetics.
DEAD SEA SALT
For decades, experts have known that The Dead Sea is the world’s richest source of revitalizing salts, minerals and trace elements. Many of the minerals in these salts are vitally important for many body functions and the unique composition of Dead Sea salts and mud is of great value in both general skincare and the treatment of problematic skin.
The properties of the main minerals are as follows:
MAGNESIUM – The magnesium concentration in the Dead Sea is around fifteen times higher than in salts in other seas. Magnesium is vital for cell metabolism by activating enzymes to accelerate cell renewal.
SODIUM – Provides energy to skin cells. Sodium ions remove dead skin (scales) and improve the skin’s permeability. After penetrating the skin, the ions bind with water to improve skin elasticity.
POTASSIUM – Improves oxidation and is another energy source to skin cells.
BROMIDE – The bromide concentration in the Dead Sea is around 50 times higher than regular salts. Soothes and treats skin ailments.
CHLORIDE – Vital for cell metabolism and mineral (alkaline & acid) balance in the body.
CALCIUM – Vital for strengthening cell membranes, cleansing pores and easing pain.
BITUMEN – A natural anti-inflammatory agent.
IODINE – Vital for energy & cell metabolism.
ZINC – Vital part of enzymatic regulation of cell proliferation.
In 1993, the Dead Sea Medical Research Centre (DSMRC) was established as a non-profit organization. This was created as a joint venture of the Ministries of Health & Tourism, the Jewish Agency, the Zionist Federation, the Regional Councils Tamar and Megilot and the Dead Sea Hotel Association.
The DSMRC is recognized by the Ministry of Science as a regional research and development center and received sponsorship from Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
The role of the DSMRC is to initiate, promote, support, supervise and publicize scientific research regarding the health properties of the Dead Sea.
The center has conducted joint studies with leading international medical institutions from countries around the world.
Studies conducted have included the beneficial effects of Dead Sea climatotherapy for psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, vitiligo and early stages of certain types of skin cancer, mycosis fungoides. Extensive studies were also conducted on the inflammation suppressing effect of the Dead Sea sun on uveitis, an inflammatory disease affecting the eye. Studies relating to heart and chronic lung disease, in particular cystic fibrosis were also conducted
DEAD SEA COSMETICS
Since ancient times, people have used the mineral-rich water, salt, and mud for curative, cosmetic and therapeutic treatments in order to enhance their appearance and to treat a variety of skin disorders. For decades, experts have known that the Dead Sea is the world’s richest source of revitalizing salts, minerals and trace elements, some of which are unique to the Dead Sea. Many of the minerals are vitally important and the unique composition of Dead Sea salts and mud is of great value in both general skincare and in the treatment of problematic skin. Guided by scientifically proven activity of these minerals, the cosmetic industry began to incorporate them into their formulas and the Dead Sea cosmetics industry was born.
The unique concept of Dead Sea cosmetics was then introduced to the worldwide market, primarily being sold by product demonstration. This allowed for the unique concept to be explained and more importantly for the products to be demonstrated. The remarkable and immediate effects of some of the products could be seen immediately which led to unprecedented levels of sales.
Since the launch of Dead Sea cosmetics into the global market, the awareness of the products has increased dramatically and this genre of cosmetics is now firmly established and respected in the cosmetics market.