Archive for August, 2009

Love Our Kind

Posted in Uncategorized on August 30, 2009 by racheltobias

Let me introduce Egypt:


The sun has set behind the swampland of the riverbed as we float on a felucca, awaiting a glorious Nubian meal prepared for us by our crew of two men. We have spent the afternoon reading, sipping on hibiscus tea, listening to the Nile lap its way into our inner rhythms. Our first mate quietly takes a break from preparing our supper to spread his small rug out on the hull and proceed with his evening prayer – standing, then kneeling, then meeting his forehead to the rug, rinse and repeat. We will spend the night on this felucca, lulled to sleep by whispers of the Nile and campfire kisses. The warm air turns cold in the early morning hours, but it’s worth it just to watch the sun rise over the palm trees.


I will break out the watercolors (a new resolution to paint once or twice a week) and let my mind wander as I try to capture the scenery on a small white page that barely does justice to a water droplet. I will envision myself in a new place, a new land, experiencing a different culture complete with its own ways of life and ways of thought. Some I will agree with, some I will not. But at least I can try to understand why, quickly becoming my favorite word. I wonder who I will befriend. Or who will befriend me. I wonder what I will miss from home: family, friends, ice, Swedish Fish, climbing, my car, my freedom.


My packing list for a semester in Egypt consisted of very conservative clothing:


Long sleeve shirts……….Check


Capris and long pants…………Check

Long dresses with cover-up sweaters……..Check

Very few shorts, almost nothing without sleeves. I placed a lot of weight on respecting a culture that does not understand or approve of scantily clad Californians in our short skirts and low-cut tops. It’s not my country, not my culture, so I made my vow to respect that, leaving behind most of my favorite clothes.


And I love clothes.


An addendum to this: It’s more than 100 degrees here.


Jeans are miserable. Pants are miserable. Any excess fabric is miserable. Yet I watch hundreds of women walk by me on the street covered in layers and layers cloth à black cloth. Eyes sometimes the only creatures that meet the sun. It’s moments like these when I have to say







I always carry a tiny little book in my wallet that I bought at a flea market for $3: “Speeches and Addresses of Abraham Lincoln.” It’s about the size of my palm and older than dirt (covered in dirt as well), but I take it out every now and then when I need some inspiration, or when I need to breathe in that charming old book smell.


I took it out today.


I need not quote this, because you know it by heart, but it doesn’t hurt to say it out loud ever now and again.


Fourscore and seven years ago, our forefathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.


Of course Lincoln left us chicas out of this, but we know deep down what he means. I don’t take it personally.


Lincoln is right.


I just finished a book called King Leopold’s Ghost which is the non-fiction account of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. It tells the story of King Leopold of Belgium’s horrifying exploitation of the Congo in the 1890s and early 1900s, and the more than 10 million Africans he killed in his quest for ivory, rubber, and riches. However, it also gives accounts of the brave individuals (in this case American, British, and Irish) who fought for the freedoms and rights of the people of the Congo. Roger Casement is one such individual who echoes eloquently and in a few more words what Lincoln had the stunning foresight to say only a few decades earlier:


“Self-government is our right, a thing born in us at birth; a thing no more to be doled out to us or withheld from us by another people than the right to life itself—than the right to

feel the sun or

smell the flowers or to

love our kind. Where all your rights become only an accumulated wrong; where men must beg with bated breath for leave to subsist in their own land, to think their own thoughts, to sing their own songs, to garner the fruits of their own labours—and even while they beg, to see things inexorably withdrawn from them—then surely it is a braver, a saner and a truer thing, to be a rebel in act and deed against such circumstances as these than tamely to accept it as the natural lot of men.”


Now that’s good stuff.


Roger Casement was right. Lincoln was right. King Leopold was wrong.


And I’m sorry to say but the way women are treated in this part of the world is wrong. The men who treat them this way are wrong.


I have been having a recurring argument with my dad about perspective in relation to history, but I think it is relevant when we speak about tolerance and understanding for other cultures and traditions:

Is history             fact                        or                         fiction?

Or perhaps a little bit of both?


History, to me, is simply a version of facts presented in a multitude of different ways.


For example:


I am sitting in McDonald’s right now in Cairo (free WiFi and a wicked good McArabia gyro-like sandwich) with one of my roommates. We are both sitting in the same room, watching the same events transpire; yet, I guarantee if I were to write an account of the last two hours, it would be completely different than my roommate’s. She would present different facts about the evening than I would, but neither of us would be wrong.


The point I’m trying to make has to do with our perspectives and our tendencies to pass judgment based on the facts we are presented with. I learned history, American and World history, in a certain way. I think the history I know is a version of fact. But it’s not the only historical account. Do children in Vietnam learn the Vietnam War the same way children in America do? What about Civil War curriculum in the North versus in the South?


Perspective is everything, and understanding how people absorb information and how people see certain events, is key to achieving any kind of globalized, peaceful civilization. So when I read about King Leopold and the author gives me a good account of his childhood traumas, the reasons that potentially explain his evil behavior throughout his adulthood, I can understand why he did the things he did. But it doesn’t excuse them. Reading an Nazi account of the events of World War II would be helpful in understanding all facets of the war, but it would not make the Nazis any less evil.


While I may have argued to my dad once or twice that no version of history is right, I take this opportunity to change that statement. What I mean is that I don’t think history is complete fact


***modern history will be more factual because of our technologically advanced news media


But I do believe that even understanding someone else’s perspective does not prevent one from being morally right. And in this I justify that right and wrong exists


The point being that I want to understand why and how one is right and one is wrong.


So, I have done my best thusfar to understand the facets of Islam, and have tolerance for a culture so vastly different than my own. And I am tolerant. But just as King Leopold is wrong, there are a lot of men in this country who are just plain wrong.


All men and women, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, black, white, orange, green, big, small, gargantuan…they are all created equal. There is such a thing as basic human rights.


We were sitting in the bar in our hotel yesterday, my dad, our friend Dave, me, and our wonderful Egyptian guide, George. After a long day in Luxor exploring the tombs of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, we were looking forward to an ice cold Egyptian Stella beer. We placed out orders, and a few moments later the waiter returned to tell George that it is forbidden to serve Egyptians alcohol during Ramadan (the Muslim month of fasting). George is not a Muslim. He does not follow Ramadan. Yet he had to sit and watch as we drank our beer.

George is awesome and he didn’t care. But I wanted to tell the waiter exactly where he could put my beer.

Egypt is not a theocracy. Technically it is a democracy. But a democracy doesn’t exist here like it should. It’s not fair.

Not fair for George.

Not fair for women.


God bless the U.S.A.


Bedouins and Chameleons

Posted in Uncategorized on August 29, 2009 by racheltobias



I think in a past life I lived as a Bedouin in the Jordanian desert. Feel free to circle the most likely explanation for how I came to this conclusion:


  1. Bedouin men are charmingly handsome.
  2. I find a magical element in spending your life in a tent under the stars, camels and sheep flanking this month’s chosen patch of earth.
  3. I also envy the ability to refuse the conveniences of 2009 in exchange for freedom and spirituality.
  4. All of the above.


Whatever it may be, I find this Bedouin culture to be the most captivating thing about our time here in Jordan.

After departing from the land of the deadly sinkholes of the fast-evaporating Dead Sea, we crossed the border into Jordan and greeted the Arab world. Salaam! A sense of wariness pervaded slightly perhaps, as we leave the familiar, Western-feeling nation of Israel, in many respects, and enter into a world in which seems a few steps too many out of a normal American comfort zone. However, this caution dissolved when we were met by our smiling guide Maha, a joyful and jolly Palestinian-Jordanian whose positive attitude is infectious. Unlike Chaim, she seemed genuinely glad to see us and eager to begin a new adventure.IMG_0964


We traveled miles and miles through the Jordanian desert, greeted here and there by giant AK-47s and AR-15s. Bedouin and gypsy tents spotted the brown landscape, and once in a while we drove through a small village, where locals sold tomatoes in carts, pita bread on wooden slabs, and lambs hanging upside down in shop doorways.  The last thing we expected to find on this path was a giant Roman city.


Jarash is 2,000 year old city in the middle of the desert. It is a huge Roman city, complete with multiple amphitheatres, a grand forum, and chariot racetrack. It is, of course, smaller than the great ruins of Rome; however, it is absolutely worth traveling to Jordan to see. It’s incredible to imagine what these streets must have been like in Roman times, with people bustling through the streets, selling frankincense on the corner and building towering columns to expand their great empire. We climbed into one of the amphitheatres and I scurried down to the stage, chasing my childhood urge to find a spotlight, and did a little dance for an audience of 2.

DSC_0358small   DSC_0304small

I walked behind the stage to do some exploring when suddenly I heard the Muslim call to prayer echo from all directions around me, and I turned 360 degrees to find the stems of mosques sprouting from the nearby neighborhoods. The sound is quite incredible really, one that I already know I will love to hear in the coming months. It is as though these prayers boil in one’s stomach and steam out of their throats, releasing a sound which easily quells the hunger of any ear.


From Amman to Petra, we –


~ Bought a fantastic rug from a Bedouin man


~ Climbed to the top of Mt. Nebo to visit Moses’ resting place and see his vision of the Holy Land

~ Hid in corners and crevices of a Roman military citadel in Kerak

~Found a chameleon battling a cat


~ Dined on hummus and tabouleh fit for kings

~ Counted the number of gigantic photos of King Abdullah and King Hussein


~ Admired an ancient mosaic map of Jerusalem and its neighboring lands

~ Went wakeboarding on the Red Sea


As she often does (Team Sopresa, you will enjoy this), Maha proclaimed as we drove towards Petra that this will be a “big surprise!” The Moses Valley is the town in which Petra finds itself; Petra however, is nestled deep within giant bodies of red sandstone, guardians of a long-forgotten civilization of Bedouin and nomad peoples.

Upon arrival in Petra, or rather the Moses Valley, my two companions and I watched the sunset behind the sandstone hills, and I could not help but sit in the beautiful evening air and do some writing. Before it had gotten too late, I had already made a couple of new friends. The lovely wait staff  was very inquisitive, and I had fun learning that one was in school to be a tour guide, while another was fluent in almost 7 languages thanks to being around tourists all the time. I then attempted to help translate for one of the less linguistically-talented servers that one of his Spanish guests wanted a glass of milk. When the guest realized I spoke Spanish, she promptly seated herself  at my table, quickly stated that she hoped she was not disturbing me, and launched into an epic Spanish tale about her troubles traveling through the Middle East, her recently deceased husband, and her dearly missed Spanish hometown. It was wonderful to hear and speak Spanish after only hearing Arabic for so many days, but I rarely got a chance to say a word. After Mary had retired for the evening, I marveled at the joy of making new friends.

DSC_0627small   DSC_0576small

The next morning, we journeyed into the old city of Petra. We walked through the Siq, a twisting turning crevice which opens into a colossal structure called the Treasury. Camels sit out front, chum for his hasty salesman who is waiting to pounce on each and every emerging tourist. Walking to the Treasury, the swirling sandstone is a blend of purples, yellows, reds, pinks, and whites, reflecting gloriously in the day’s soft sunlight. The Treasury is simply this beautiful stone carved into giant columns and decoration, marking tombs of distant souls. On our walk, we came upon more of these giant sandstone structures, not freestanding, but rather emerging from the boulders as if licked to fruition by the wind. Perhaps the most impressive of these  sandstone beauties was the giant Monastery, which we had to hike up up and up to.

rocks copysmall

Huffing and puffing, we finally made it up to the top, after passing at least a dozen Bedouin jewelry stands perched along the 800 stone steps. When we reached the top, we marveled at the Monastery, then wandered to a larger Bedouin shop, with people in one room smoking sheesha comfortably on colorful mats, and antique jewelry laid out in the expanse of another.


We quickly made friends with a young Bedouin named Tayseer, who offered to retie my head scarf the correct way, as the merchant I had bought it from was apparently not schooled in elegant scarf tying procedures. Tayseer told us that his family had been living nearby this monastery in the mountains here for 950 years. He was a very smart kid, very articulate and seemingly at peace with himself and his lifestyle. He described the magic of sleeping outside under the stars every night, watching the sun rise over the Monastery’s columns each day. Why would you want to be anywhere else? he asked. He described his inability to identify with those who felt the need to constantly be surrounded by money and excess; he had a small business which kept him and his family well, but there was not much else he needed to feel happy. Tayseer then invited the three of us to join him under the stars that night, where he would cook us a Bedouin meal by the fireside. Although I could not quite convince my companions to this desert sleepover, I vowed to one day return to the Monastery and spend a night like a Bedouin.


Later the next day, after I had pressed her again and again, Maha finally agreed to stop by a Bedouin tent in the desert, where I and another sweet German woman who also stopped behind us went inside to discover an impressively cool and organized tent house. The tent, divided into a woman’s bedroom, men’s bedroom, and sitting room/kitchen area, housed a family of five or six, including two young women who study business management at university when they are not on summer holiday in the desert. Outside of their tent was a separate tent for the goats and sheep, which were out being herded by the men when we arrived.

Maybe I wasn’t a Bedouin in a past life.

But secretly I wish I was, or will be. I think it is incredibly beautiful to want to live on the land and off the land. To depend on the most basic of necessities, to be able to know where to find water in the middle of a desolate wasteland, to invite solitude in for tea.

The most interesting of all of this: Bedouins own almost 40% of Jordan’s property. Since long before it was settled, Bedouins acquired deeds for most of the land; on some of it they farm, mostly for themselves since they have neither the manpower nor the technology to harvest for large scale export. They move up and down the country depending on the seasons, leaving behind their land until they return again. Most of these people are not poor by any means; in fact, many have made fortunes by selling their property to the government or private investors nearby to big cities like Amman. If the Jordanian government had the money, it could certainly buy most of this land and double its capacity for agricultural export. Alas…

But I think it is interesting to note that sometimes those who we least expect to survive, end up thriving. Unlike the Native Americans of the United States, who now for the most part have evolved with the rest of us and caught up to modern technology, the Bedouins are content and comfortable living the same way they did hundreds and hundreds of years ago. There are not many people who would be able to value such antiquity and such tradition.


To conclude – Jordan is one of the most wonderful countries I have visited. The culture is incredibly accommodating and gentle, very unexpected perhaps for our perception of this part of the world. If you have the chance, don’t miss Jordan, Jerash, Petra, and the wild desert countryside whose traveling inhabitants have secrets worth discovering.


The Holy Land

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2009 by racheltobias

Dead Sea Sunset

As I waddled awkwardly into the Dead Sea, I was reminded of how strange this place really is. As soon as I fell into the water, I floated right to the top, like a log, at the same time becoming painfully aware of each scrape on my body as the salt began to eat away, down to the tiniest hangnail. It is the strangest feeling, to be completely buoyant – you feel strangely insignificant, like if the sea felt so inclined it could spit you right out onto the sand. Helplessness is a common feeling in this country; from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to this sweltering desert, there are times when I have felt so confused – and so smothered by the question ”why,” which nobody seems to like very much. Anyhow, I suppose I should start from the beginning.


My dad and I arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon, woozy from air travel, but anxious to get started. Our guide, Chaim (pronounced like Khayem), met us at the airport and suggested we explore Tel Aviv for a short time while we waited for our third party to arrive on a different plane. So we threw, or rather lugged, our baggage into the van and headed off.


Chaim is quite a strange fellow. He is probably fast approaching 70, a tall, gangly fellow with shorts that are only slightly too short, and a little clip-on nametag/tour guide license. Born in Manchester, but raised in Israel, he fluently speaks a multitude of languages, of which I have heard English, Hebrew, Arabic, French and German. (We’ve had an interesting time practicing my Arabic together.) He knows quite a lot about everything – probably knows more about U.S. history than I do. His resourcefulness has been a gift, but by Day 3 of Chaim, we are just about ready for Guide #2. Chaim’s funny disability is his inability to walk and talk at the same time. I am always afraid to ask a question because I know it will mean stopping for at least 5 minutes while he slowly answers. Perhaps the most comical anecdote I can give is when he pulled the car over to the side of the road in the middle of a bustling main street to fully commit his energy to telling us a joke. I would tell you the joke, only I can’t remember it.

 Chaim and Fam

Back to Israel. Israel is a beautiful country. Even Tel Aviv, which is more of a regular city, still has a lot of charm. Our first stop was Jaffa, which is a restored area of town designed to resemble the time of the Crusaders, now inhabited by artists. To live in Jaffa, you have to go through a selection process in which a committee decides whether or not your “artist-enough” to be permitted residence in the old stone beachfront. Isn’t if funny that someone can tell you whether or not you are an artist, whether or not your own expression of creativity can be considered “art”?

Rachel Jaffa


Driving into Jerusalem that evening, I awoke to what seemed to me to be hundreds of white, cubical structures painted onto hillsides. Jerusalem is the quaintest of cities; its modernity is captured pleasantly by its ancient breath, and you are constantly reminded that your footsteps are far from the first that have walked this ground. The Mt. Zion hotel is seated daintily on a hillside, looking out onto hillsides and religious structures, literally fit for a King.


We had a lot to see in the Old City, but Chaim decided to first show us some of the newest developments in Jerusalem, including what I will refer to as the Separation Wall. This wall was built by the Israeli government to separate Jerusalem from the West Bank, or more accurately, the Israelis from the Palestinians.

 Separation Wall



The wall’s destination however, is completely arbitrary. It weaves its way through homes and businesses, separating long-time neighbors, friends, and even family members with 30-foot pillars of cold, hard stone. Along the wall, players have graffitied impassioned messages upon the wall such as “Friends should not be divided; enemies should” and “Scotland for a free Palestine.” As Chaim is explaining the history of the wall, we see a shop owner walk past us and into his quiet and run-down grocery store next to where our van has parked. Chaim tells us he knows this shopkeeper, and that before the wall was built, he had a thriving business that served a relatively large radius. Now, this clientele has been halved, at least, and business has obviously dropped off significantly. Not only has this wall devastated the economy of those living on the West Bank side, but it has created a multitude of other problems for these people, problems like lack of healthcare, education, trash pick-up services, among other things. Not to mention the psychological damages it must do to revoke all rights and privileges from someone completely arbitrarily. Even more eye-opening is how many people are unaware of the existence, location, or damages wrought by this wall: most Israelis have never even seen it up close. And few Americans could tell you where a wall existed, if they could identify one at all.

The wall is just a symbol of the deep and destructive consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are walls and obstacles everywhere you look. An American-Jew named Moscovitz, buys up properties in the Arab districts of Jerusalem and build residencies for Jewish people, not to foster tolerance, but rather as political show of claiming one’s right to this land. On another day, Muslim terrorists target Jewish city centers or modes of public transportation as a way to express their anger at the situation. Neither is right. Both have acted wrongly in the past. Both believe they are entitled to this Holy Land. But who knows the answer? Certainly not me.

The next wall we faced was the Waling Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Slightly less controversial, but not much. The Old City is beautiful, with is piles of old stones, and narrow alleyways with shopkeepers selling everything you can possibly imagine – from underwear to cinnamon. We learned about the architecture of the city, its inhabitants, and its conflicts. When we finally came upon the Wailing Wall, it was much different and much smaller than I had imagined. About to skip merrily to the center of the wall, I was quickly ushered onto the women’s side, which was only about 1/5 of the actual wall. The men got the other 4/5. In spite of having limited space, women crowded against the surface of the wall, writing their messages to divinity, and slipping them in the wall’s cracks, perhaps to be absorbed and swallowed by the great feat of an ancient King. Bookshelves lined the fence dividing the women from the men, stocked with copies of the Bible and the Koran for all to read and pray. I peeked through the fence onto the men’s side to see what I could possibly be missing out on. Orthodox men with black top hats and sweltering black suits stepped lightly around, some prayed on the wall while others looked on.


After the Wailing Wall we walked down the Via Dolorosa, the narrow city streets through which Jesus walked, bearing a cross and an imminent death. The walk ends at the Church of the Sepulcher, which is Jesus’ supposed place of burial and crucifixion. It was then explained to me, as I watched group after group kneel upon Christ’s tomb, kiss it, rub their clothes on it, and pray upon it, that historians really do not know where Christ was buried nor where he was crucified. Yet, this church and its tomb stand anyway. Furthermore, the Church is divided into several different pieces of ownership; different sects of Christianity all lay claim to this church as their own. There have been numerous violent outbreaks inside the very walls of this church.




As I watched the multitudes of people wander in to touch the tomb of Jesus Christ, I found myself dearly wishing to know what they were feeling. Even though I know that historically Christ was not buried in this tomb, they are just as certain as I that He lays beneath their kneeling bodies. People come from all over the world to see this church; they save penny by penny for years and years to see this place, to feel this place.


If only I could understand ?Why?


On the way home from the Old City, Chaim drove us through a religious quarter of Jerusalem, which was home to a community of Orthodox Jews. In Jerusalem, you see them walking around everywhere, with their top hats and sharp dress, but their degree of zealousness differs for the most part. In this community, however, they are as serious as it gets. In this sect of Judaism, men and women do not go to work; rather, they rely on charitable donations to survive. These pious men spend their days praying and studying the Torah, while their wives tend to the children. Women who are married must shave their heads and wear a cloth wrapped around their bare head. Oh, but once in a while when they are out in public they are allowed to wear wigs. Apparently, a woman’s hair is what cradles her beauty, so when she is married, she no longer needs to look beautiful, god forbid another man look at her.


?Why? ?Why? ?Why?


Women engage in a silent competition to see who can have the most children. If a wife is doubtful that she can handle more children, the husband will consult the rabbi to see if he says she can have any more. They of course are strictly kosher, which is another strange tradition I have yet to understand. Keeping kosher means not mixing dairy and meat; kosher meat consists of animals with split hooves, and I believe there are a few other requirements. I have asked more than 5 people on this trip




Why do meat and dairy need to be separated? Why do animals need to have the split hooves? The answer I got 5 times was because the Torah says so.


I’m learning a lot about faith on this trip. You don’t question it.


Oh by the way, did I mention that these Orthodox men are the #1 biggest consumer of prostitution services. But don’t worry, the rabbi says it’s ok because it is not considered adultery: the prostitutes are not married.


For all the hell we give parts of the Arab world for how they treat women, and rightly so, these men are just as bad.


I will note, however, that this community is very small and its regiment unique to itself. Like any other religion, there are fanatics and fundamentalists that engage in behavior difficult to understand and impossible to agree with. These are one such example.




As we stood looking out on a beautiful of Jerusalem the next morning, I was disappointed it would be my last. This city, for all its “whys” had so much charm. And anyway, I love the word Why? I want to know how people work and how the world works, and why is the straight path to truth, or at least one version of truth. Maybe you don’t question religion. But the discussions that I find when I do are worth it.


From Jerusalem, we began our journey through the West Bank and the









It’s hot. We stopped at the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, where the prophets of the Old Testament lived and toiled under the sun, recording the Words.


We then made our way to Masada, which was a refuge, a place of escape, for King Herod, whose paranoia fueled his fear of attack by any of his many enemies. The palace is built on top of a huge plateau in the middle of the desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. There is a special way of getting to the top that is only evident to those who have climbed it before. On this mountaintop, was the first creation of an aqueduct and water storage system; for somewhere in the middle of the desert where water was nonexistent, this was quite an achievement. King Herod, however, never had reason to flee to this desert hideaway. Years after his death it was inhabited by almost 1000 Jews, who lived there peacefully until the Romans conquered the land. When the Romans arrived, however, did not know how to get to the top, and proceeded to build a huge ramp. This ramp took three years – three years in which the Jews were basically trapped upon this mountaintop with no way to escape or successfully fight off the Romans. As the story goes, when the Romans were finally finished building the ramp and the Jews knew there was no escape, they committed mass suicide, choosing death rather than eternal slavery to the Romans. Aside from one man’s account who never saw the battle, there is no evidence that this suicide actually occurred. First of all, no bodies have ever been found that suggest massive numbers of death. Secondly, to kill oneself in Judaism is a sin, one that people as religious as these most likely would not have considered. Whichever story is true, it was certainly a fascinating palace in the most terrifying of deserts; definitely worth the trek.


Now we are finding solace in the air conditioning of our Dead Sea hotel room. Floating in the Dead Sea was a fascinating must, but now that the excitement is over it is time to be out of the sun. The water in the Dead Sea is warm, like a Jacuzzi, and the beach is covered in balls of salt crystals (don’t worry mom we brought you some with your Dead Sea sand!). The swim was truly bizarre. When you’re in the water, your limbs immediately float to the top, even as you awkwardly flail to keep them down. Watching somebody try to stand in the water is quite a sight, as you really have to struggle to keep your body vertical underneath the water. Interesting, though, the Dead Sea is almost like a medical haven. People with skin diseases like eczema and cirrhosis come to the Dead Sea to cure their ailments. Apparently the combination of minerals in the water, and spending time in the area itself, has proven to be a quick cure for these skin conditions. As a result, people have “treatments” all throughout the day — we saw people floating at 6 in the morning, before the sun was rising. Unfortunately, the standard treatment period is 3 weeks, which would be quite boring. The Dead Sea is like Las Vegas without restaurants, casinos, or swimming pools.


Tomorrow is on to the Jordanian border and new adventures.