The extraordinary Dead Sea sits to the far west of Jordan on the border with Israel. This is the lowest point on earth at 431 metres below sea level. The sea is best known for its highly salty water, which makes it possible to float practically on the surface. The mud and oxygen-rich air are also believed to have excellent health benefits.
The salinity of the Dead Sea is so high because whilst water flows into the sea, it does not have any outlets. The low elevation results in higher oxygen levels and causes significant evaporation, which increases the salt concentration in the water. Another side-effect is that the water and surrounding mud are rich in minerals. This makes the Dead Sea a popular retreat for both relaxation and health purposes.
The Dead Sea and River Jordan make regular appearances in the Old Testament. The area was used as a health retreat by Herod the Great, and this area is the alleged site of Sodom and Gomorrah before they were consumed by “sulfur and fire”. To the north of the Dead Sea lies Bethany Beyond the Jordan, which is thought to be where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. To the east of the Dead Sea sits Mt Nebo, where God showed Moses the Promised Land. Close to Mt Nebo, the town of Madaba is still home to one of the highest Christian populations in Jordan, and visitors to the Church of St George are able to see the remaining section of a mosaic which once pictured the entire Holy Land.