The Incredible Dead Sea 
History, Fascinating Facts and What to See

What makes the Dead Sea history and the entire region so remarkable? 

View of the Dead Sea from Mount Sodom in the Judean Desert of Israel

Just an hour's drive from Jerusalem, don't miss visiting the Dead Sea Israel which should be on everyone's travel bucket list! It is certainly on our list of the top 10 must-sees in Israel. 

Besides its great natural beauty -

turquise waters of the Dead Sea beach area in Ein Bokek Israel

blue-turquoise waters amid spectacular Judean desert landscapes, it is the compelling Dead Sea history, unusual features and surroundings that make up the unique Dead Sea story. 

Its just 67 kilometers or 42 miles long, and at its widest point, its 18 kilometers or just 11 miles wide. The west coast is in Israel while the east coast is in Jordan.

Below are some fascinating facts about the Dead Sea history and composition:

If you are interested in what to see in the Dead Sea district, you can read up on it here - what to see in the Judean Desert and Dead Sea area.

Dead Sea History and Incredible Fact 1
Down Under and Deep

tourists visiting the lowest place on earth - the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth at 413 meters (1,412 feet) below Sea Level.‎

It is also the the deepest saline lake in the world with a depth of 304 meters or 997 feet! ‎

Dead Sea History and Incredible Fact 2

In Hebrew, it is called 'Yam Hamelach' which means the Salt Sea. The Dead Sea is the second saltiest body of water in the world. Its salinity is close to 35%, making it 10 times saltier than your average ocean water.

The Romans first named it the Dead Sea because no flora or fauna could grow in such a high concentration of salt.

But thanks to the high salinity, ‎people easily float in the Dead Sea!

floating in the Dead Sea in the south of Israel

Its a pleasure to float in the natural bouyancy of the Dead Sea. Just don't go in the water if you have an open cut and never, ever open your eyes in the water.

So what makes the Dead Sea so salty?

Three million years ago, the Dead Sea was connected to and flooded by the Red Sea to the south. About a million years ago, tectonic land movements disconnected it from the Red Sea.

The result is that today, water flows into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River and a few other sources, but the water doesn't flow out. With high temperatures year round, the water evaporates leaving a super-high concentration of salts, and other minerals too.

Dead Sea History and Incredible Fact 3
Mineral Rich

Besides, salt, there are 21 different minerals dissolved in the Dead Sea including: sodium, magnesium, ‎calcium, bromine, bitumen, sulfur and potassium. More than half of these minerals are not found in any other sea or ocean and have proven health and beauty benefits.

To take just one example, the Dead Sea has high levels of magesium sulfate, more commonly called Epsom Salt which is well known for its antiseptic and health benefits.

Ideally, you can visit the Dead Sea and enjoy  some of the wonderful health and beauty effects.

Second best, at home you can use products that contain Dead Sea minerals, salts and mud.

The many minerals within the sea and mud are known to nourish and relax the body and skin, enhancing bone building, blood circulation, hormone activation, anti-aging and promoting healing for skin disorders such as psoriasis, seborrhea and eczema.

Since I was young, I have a tendency to get atopic dermatitis. I have found that Clineral Dead Sea hand and body creams formulated for skin disorders help sooth the itchiness and dryness in my problem areas. Read more about Dead Sea products for skin disorders.

The minerals in the Dead Sea mud and beauty care products are wonderful for enhancing your skin. Read more about Dead Sea cosmetic and beauty products.

Dead Sea History and Incredible Fact 4
Medicinal Benefits

Spending time in the Dead Sea district is recommended by doctors and dermatologists for certain ailments. That's why you'll find lots of health spas for patients wishing to alleviate a variety of medical symptoms:

  • The extremely low level of pollens and allergens in the atmosphere ease symptoms of asthma, rhinosinusitis and other allergy-related diseases.
  • Due to the low ultraviolet radiation, people with psoriasis and other skin disorders whose conditions improve with long exposure to sunlight can sunbath for long periods of time without worry.   
  • The high atmospheric pressure in the Dead Sea area is considered to have health effects.
  • As already described, the high mineral content of the water and mud has health and relaxation benefits affecting many critical bodily systems. 
  • Dead Sea mud has been found to decrease acne. 
  • Researchers have found that people with certain types of arthritis, rheumatism and chronic back pain get real pain relief with Dead Sea mud packs, of course in conjuction with standard medication.

Dead Sea History and Incredible Facts 5
Mud Baths 

Mud bathing in the Dead Sea area is fun and healthy for you

Mud bathing is not just for patients. Its fun and healthy for almost everyone!

Over the years of Dead Sea history, many nations and people have praised the wonders of the Dead Sea mud! People find it rejuvenating, promoting soft and glowing skin and an overall sense of wellness. 

Dead Sea mud is extremely rich in minerals. Having formed over many thousands of years ago, it slowly asborbed the high concentration of salts and minerals in the water. Condensed within the mud, the small size of the minerals make it easier for them to penetrate your skin and work their wonders...

Dead Sea History and Incredible Facts 6
Ancient and Biblical History

The Dead Sea history is quite ancient. 

  • Nearby Jericho, just 30 kilometers north of the Dead Sea (in the Palestinian Territory) is the oldest city in the world still functioning, built 11,000 years ago.  Its famous Bronze Age wall was brought down by Joshua and the Israelites as is retold in the Bible, about 3,400 years ago.
  • There are remains of a pagan temple in the Ein Gedi national park near the Dead Sea from about 5,000 years ago, that you can see in the photo below.
Remains of a Chaolithic pagan temple in Ein Gedi Dead Sea history

The Dead Sea area is mentioned in the Bible using different names - the Salt Sea, the Eastern Sea and Sea of the Arava.

One of the most famous Biblical tales is when Abraham's nephew Lot escaped God's destruction of the evil cities of Sodom and Gomorra near the Dead Sea. Lot's wife was turned into a salt pillar because she turned and looked back at the destruction.

Young David hid from King Saul in the Ein Gedi wilderness near the Dead Sea.

Ezekiel the prophet told how one day, fishermen would fish in the  Dead Sea.

King Herod ‎built the famous desert fortress of Masada, just west of the Dead Sea. Years later, Masada was the scene of the famous two-year Roman ‎siege that culminated in the mass suicide of its Jewish defenders.

King David wasn't the only one who took refuge in the Dead Sea and Judean Desert. Its proximity to Jerusalem made it a refuge for many people.

View of the Qumran Caves in the Judean Desert part of the Dead Sea History

In Roman times, the Essenes, a breakaway Jewish sect lived in the  area. They were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a treasure trove of almost a thousand of the oldest Biblical and religious documents ever found, discovered in the Qumran Caves

During the Byzantine period, many Christian hermits escaped civilationg to live in caves in the area, around which beautiful Christian monasteries were built.

Dead Sea History and Incredible Facts 7
Everyone Was Mining the Dead Sea

Throughout the Dead Sea history, it has been mined for its minerals: by the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans and the Nabateans.

  • The Egyptians used Dead Sea minerals for their mummification, for fertilizers and they paved roads with its natural asphalt.
  • In the Roman era, salt was an expensive commodity and the Romans levied taxes from local traders in salt, rather than gold or silver coinage. 
  • Queen Cleopatra was so obsessed with Dead Sea cosmetics that she asked Mark ‎Antony to remove the Dead Sea from King Herod's territory and grant it to her as a wedding ‎present! 
  • Hundreds of years later, the ‎Nabateans nomads who ruled the Spice Route also harvested the Dead Sea, especially for its natural  asphalt. 

Dead Sea History and Incredible Facts 8
The Vanishing Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is unfortunately shrinking. it is losing 5 - 8 meters  every year which is a whole lot.

There are a variety of reasons. The chief tributary of the Dead Sea is the Jordan River. It used to a full-flowing river but for years, most of its waters which originate up north in the Golan Heights never reach the Dead Sea. They are channeled off to support agriculture and population growth of the countries in the region. So the Dead Sea is losing its main source of water.

Modern mineral harvesting of the Dead Sea is another huge problem. The waters are siphoned off and evaporated so that companies who received mining rights from the government of Israel can reap profits by selling Dead Sea minerals worldwide.

This industrial use of Israel's precious natural resources is contributing to the Dead Sea's shrinkage.

There are many ideas on how to best protect the Dead Sea. Some focus on limiting the companies that harvest Dead Sea minerals. There was an ambitious plan developed jointly by Israel and Jordan to build a canal from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. This plan might have ecological consequences and in an case, its bogged down due to the political situation in the Middle East.

We hope solutions will be found soon to save the Dead Sea and stop it from disappearing one day...

Which makes it even more important for you to visit the Dead Sea at least once, before it may be too late!

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