My flight out of Israel was on Sunday afternoon, so I decided to take the day off and do some traveling and sightseeing. I rented a car and got an early start on Saturday morning.
I decided to head first for the Dead Sea. Due to Shabbat, Saturdays in Israel are extremely quiet, so thankfully traffic was not an issue. I passed through the outskirts of Tel Aviv, a big city with a surprising number of high rises. I then made my way south, passing by signs for Jerusalem and Ashdod. The terrain was drastically changing, transforming initially from the chaos of the city to the deep greens of the farmlands and finally within an hour and a half I was surrounded by a dry and barren desert. The signs warned against potential camel crossings, which I thought was hilarious, but it wasn’t long before I saw my first caravan of camels (yes, I looked that up) sauntering aimlessly along the side of the road. The camels seemed peculiarly foreign to me and I almost had to pinch myself for a second to remind myself where I was.
It was then that I finally saw it, as I was beginning to get tired of the vast nothingness around me. I drove over one last hill and the Dead Sea was right in front of me, but it was not at all like I had expected. Light turquoise in the shallows gave way to a deep blue in the deep, and every kilometer or so there was a strange sand bank partition. In the distance, on the other side of the Sea were the mountains of Jordan. It looked more like a big dam than the “Sea” that I had expected.
I made my way down the winding road and within 15 minutes or so I was down on the beach in amongst the hotels. It was at least 100 degrees at the water’s edge. After looking around for a bit I made my way into the water. It was an incredibly strange sensation. The water felt oily, dense and as warm as a bath. As I made my way deeper and deeper I felt my feet fighting to get to the surface. I lay back and relaxed and my feet popped up as my entire body shot straight to the surface. I had obviously expected to float, but I didn’t expect to bob right up on the surface of the water. It felt as if at least half of my body was completely out of the water. What an amazing experience.
I bought a few souvenirs and then got back in my little Mitsubishi rental and headed for Jerusalem. For some reason my sketchy GPS wanted me to go back the way I came and then cut across at some point to Jerusalem. I wasn’t having it. I picked up a map and decided to trust my very limited navigational skills and instincts. Thankfully it worked out and about an hour and a half later I arrived in the Old City of Jerusalem. I parked the car, picked up an audio guide headset at the tourist office and set off on foot. First, I set off through the various markets and bazaars towards The Western Wall – the most holy site in the Jewish faith. Next, I made my way to the Lions Gate and followed the path of Jesus and the Cross which ended at The Church of the Holy Sepulcher- the holiest site of the Christians. I then wandered around the streets and the markets until dark.
It was amazing to see how alive this old city is. What was intriguing to me was the pure diversity of the people and seeing how there are only a few streets separating the Jewish quarter, the Muslim quarter and the Christian quarter. It was quite amazing to see how they all seem to coexist.
It was a lot to take in in one day, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I’m so glad I was able to find the time to do some sightseeing. Now it’s off to England for four weeks and three tournaments. I will update you once I get there.