The Dead Sea, Qumran and the Essenes and the Heat

We woke up early and headed in the direction of the Dead Sea. We traveled through the territories. Nothing major to report here. As we drove we saw sea level signs as we descended into the Dead Sea valley.

First stop on our way - Qumran National Park - which ties in nicely with seeing the Dead Sea scrolls exhibit at the Israel Museum. As many of the park her have, there was an interesting video on the people who lived here and wrote and hid the scrolls. They were Essenes, ascetics who were like Jewish monks. They were men (only) who studied, worked communally, took many ritual baths (of course, because it is crazy hot!), and wrote prolifically. We were roasting hot and I cannot see living there let alone thinking much about anything other than being hot. By the way, this National Park has a huge dining hall and is a popular spot on the tour bus circuit.

We then drove past our housing accommodations (the Youth Hostel) to get to a place listed in the Lonely Planet guide book as a the easiest and cleanest place to get into the Dead Sea. It was not a highlight of the trip. The water was as hot as the air (~ 40 degrees C), it stung our skin, it smelled of sulfur, and there was no easy place to spray off. Yes, we were buoyant. But we could have skipped this and been fine. See how happy we look?!

That evening we stayed at the Ein Gedi Youth Hostel. It had a great view of the eerily quiet Dead Sea. Most lakes of this size that I've ever witnessed had at least some boat activity. Not the Dead Sea. It's aptly named.

Dinner was pretty good. Yes, there were loads of young people on Birthright trips but some people our age were staying so don't stress about being a non-youth in a youth hostel. The princes of anything else are out-of-sight. For instance, a night here at the hostel cost ~ $150 USD. Oh and again, the same single bed, bunk bed sleeping arrangements as in the Field School housing.

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