Written by By Staff Writer
The Dead Sea — a 20-mile-long body of water in the western desert of Jordan — is shrinking, and life is moving on as if nothing had happened.
Diving is common, and cities and towns are increasingly developing along the shore. A closer look at how people are adapting to changing conditions, and where there are signs that tourism might be at risk:
The Dead Sea was formed in the hot desert, well suited to cultivating milkweed, nutmeg and the like, and human settlements followed its development. The original population grew to around 4 million, and the Dead Sea was served by an extensive railway system. But over time its Arab residents became embroiled in feuds, and trade in the area dried up.
This means that, even though there is still a large Arab population in Jordan today, the Dead Sea is largely inaccessible to travelers.
Jordan shares the Dead Sea with Israel and the Palestinian territories, which means that the total area of the Dead Sea is not under the jurisdiction of all three countries. Israel maintains it has a “strategic interest” in the area, and claims to have established ownership of it — although the Palestinians reject this view, saying it has been forced upon them by colonial powers.
In addition, the Jordanian government wants to retain jurisdiction of the Dead Sea, and the many smaller underground cities that have sprung up in the last few decades around it, so tourism must be allowed to continue.
However, visitors must either cross into Israel or head south to the Red Sea — a journey of more than 1,000 miles. Only around 15% of the Dead Sea’s original population has returned to the place that was once its capital.
Climbing the business cycle
The Sea of Jordan is a gem of a destination, with a strong history that is still relevant today. It’s also popular with ecotourists and adventure travelers.
The Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba offer an array of cycle rides, as well as walking, hiking and mountain biking adventures, and Jordan boasts one of the best desert safari experiences in the world — no matter how challenging.
In addition, the ancient Jewish settlements of the Azraq camp near the Dead Sea are less than 50 kilometers south of the Dead Sea. Here, the remains of the Dead Sea remains are common and travel is possible.