At 1,319 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea valley is the lowest point on the surface of the earth.
With year-round sunshine, breathtaking views, dry heat, and an abundance of minerals, springs, and mud, the Dead Sea region has been a natural spa wonder for thousands of years. Dead Sea water has been scientifically proven to cure numerous health ailments, while plants growing in lakeside oases have produced high-quality natural cosmetics, perfumes, and medicines. Today, as chaos and terror engulf the Middle East, the Dead Sea valley provides a blissful escape into stillness and tranquility.
Fortunately for me, this small paradise is just an hour away from my home in Be’er Sheva, a town in the heart of Israel’s Negev Desert. I recently took a day off to experience a spa treatment at the Hyatt Regency, a favorite among the luxury hotels lining the Dead Sea shores. After passing through rolling hills, I embarked on the descent down into the Dead Sea Valley. I was immediately surrounded by a majestic mountain range – jagged cliffs with an artistic blend of every shade of brown. As happens each time I cross this threshold, my body involuntary exhaled deeply and relaxed completely; absorbing the profound sense of peace suddenly permeating my senses.
The further down I descended, the more deeply I embodied this magical sense of serenity. I often have wondered about the automatic reflex of calm surrender when approaching the Dead Sea. I now know the reason for my physical reaction: The Dead Sea has the world’s highest concentration of bromine, a naturally calming chemical. In fact the Dead Sea has twenty times more bromine than any other place on earth.
Bromine is not the only natural chemical evident in the Dead Sea’s air. The atmosphere also is saturated with magnesium, sodium, potassium, and calcium, among other healing elements. These minerals and salts originate in the sea, which is fed by the Jordan River and hot mineral springs with high concentrations of salt and hydrogen sulfide. Surrounded by mountains, the therapeutic waters have nowhere to go other than up into the hot, dry desert air, where they evaporate.
The air also is pollen- and pollution-free and boasts the world’s largest supply of oxygen, at eight percent higher than at sea level – a result of the exceptionally low altitude of the region. For this reason, individuals with respiratory illness benefit greatly from a Dead Sea visit, experiencing months of relief after just a one or two week stay. Together with the layer of mineral gases hanging over the sea, the low altitude also shields visitors from the sun’s harmful UV rays. As a result, even those of us with the most sensitive skin can sunbathe for as long as six hours at a time – an obvious advantage for those suffering from skin diseases that heal with exposure to sunshine.
Mineral- and oxygen-rich air is just one of the unparalleled advantages of a Dead Sea spa experience. Another advantage is the sea itself: About three million years ago, ancient layers of the earth were exposed on the Syrian-African fault, causing salt water springs to erupt. Over time, these springs formed the Dead Sea, with evaporation intensifying the levels of minerals and salts in the water. Today, the Dead Sea has a salt concentration forty times greater than that of Mono Lake. The sea is in fact the saltiest body of water on the earth, so salty that one cannot help but float! Visitors, fascinated by this unique phenomenon, can read a book or newspaper while literally sitting on the water.
Another by-product of the Dead Sea is its extraordinary mud, an alluvial sediment saturated with sulfide compounds and twenty-one minerals. The mud holds heat especially well and rids the body of toxins, providing therapeutic benefits for individuals with arthritic conditions.
The Dead Sea features a unique combination of elements – warm, dry, oxygen-enriched air saturated with salts and minerals and free of pollen and pollution; water and mud equally packed with salts and minerals; and year-round sunshine without the harmful effect of strong UV rays.
Known for being a healing center, the Dead Sea boasts premier spas and healing clinics for the treatment of skin diseases such as psoriasis, respiratory ailments such as emphysema, joint problems such as arthritis, and numerous other ailments. In addition to its theraputic benefits, the Dead Sea also features a variety of luscious plants in the surrounding oases, offering natural material for high quality cosmetics. No wonder the area was a favorite of ancient Israel’s royalty!
I arrived at the Hyatt Regency Spa hoping to receive a little royal treatment myself. Starting off in a plush white robe, I was led to a room for my first experience. As I sat on the treatment table, the attendant smoothed hot, silky mud onto my back. The mud’s texture was so rich that it made former treatments seem like little clumps of clay. The very touch of this mud sent a wave of relaxation through my spine. As someone who suffers from chronic back pain, I welcomed the immediate and deep sense of relief.
The attendant continued to smooth the mud onto my arms, hands, legs, and feet. When she was done, she wrapped me in nylon, then aluminum, then a blanket, and lastly a sheet, to retain the mud’s moisture and heat. She then left me alone, listening to music. A few minutes after she left, I felt an intense electric sensation throughout my body. All my areas of pain seemed to be lit up and reacting, as if they were on fire. I wondered how long the discomfort would last, but after a few minutes my body abruptly plummeted into a profound state of relaxation, 100 percent pain-free. I was in heaven.
Twenty minutes after leaving me, my attendant returned and I rinsed off in the adjoining shower. I returned to the table for a salt scrub. Remembering a previous salt scrub experience that had left my skin red and raw, I braced myself. But this salt had a gentle and pleasant texture and was mixed with aromatic oils. I relaxed.
Feeling baby soft and smelling grand, I inhaled deeply at the end of my scrub. I got up from the treatment table and gingerly stepped into a hot aromatic bath the attendant had prepared. I felt like a spoiled princess, and I loved it.
I topped off my spa experience by checking out most of the therapeutic pools the Hyatt offers – the hot Dead Sea water pool, the regular Dead Sea water pool, and the natural hot sulfur pool. The last one was my favorite, as I once again experienced a sense of instant physical relaxation the minute I was enfolded by the water.
Later, the spa manager informed me that the Hyatt has its own line of products that are a blend of different raw materials. “It’s extremely important that clients get the highest quality materials in their treatments,” she explained, “Clients receive energy from these materials, and I want people feeling better from their very first treatment.” The Hyatt has its own laboratory where it tests the safety and effectiveness of each product it creates. While most of these products are only available at the Hyatt’s Dead Sea Spa, the manager informed me of a few ready-made Dead Sea products available to people through the Internet. As such, each one of us can enjoy a Dead Sea spa experience, no matter where we live!
The Dead Sea in a Bottle
Sea of Life muds are good for all kinds of skin, especially sensitive skin. For someone with joint or pigmentation problems, eczema, or psoriasis (with no open wounds), use the seaweed mud. Salt Glow is the best for a salt scrub, and the pure almond oil is perfect for a massage and great on sensitive skin. Also recommended is their eucalyptus and lavender bath oils, for a bath or jacuzzi, and their Cooling Gel, for tired, hurting legs or varicose veins. For more information visit www.sea-of-life.com.
CosmoTeva custom designs oils, muds, salt scrubs, and creams for alternative health care professionals. The company also has a pre-packaged line of products available, including cosmetics. All CosmoTeva products combine Dead Sea salts, minerals, and muds with the finest natural base oils and essential oils, from Israel and abroad. For more information visit www.cosmoteva.co.il or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ahava is one of the most well-known Dead Sea skincare lines. The company makes a variety of products ranging from body washes and creams to hair and face masques. For more information visit www.ahava.com.
Hyatt Regency Dead Sea Resort & Spa. 50-minute mud treatment salt combination with aromatherapy bath, 240 shekels (about $150 U.S.). 011-972-8-659-1234, www.hyattdeadsea.co