Masada or Massada is a four hundred meter high rock, which was taken over strategically by King Herod and his followers. During the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, the Jewish community had to flee, and where better to than in an isolated desert where there is not much more that some very high rocks?
After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Masada was unchallenged for another three years, but the Romans of course quickly noticed that there was another stronghold they had to capture. The inhabitants of this gigantic citadel forests didn’t want to fall into the hands of the Romans, and therefore decided to commit mass suicide.
When the Romans finally captured the fort the whole complex was indeed filled with corpses.
If a Jewish person commits suicide, it is believed they can not access heaven, so the task of this suicide was given to a small group of men who had to kill almost all people living in Masada.
I wonder how it would’ve been asked. “Hey! Uhm… Look we’ve got a little problem. Can you please kill everyone living here, since we all really want to go to heaven you know… Thanks!”
After this terrible discovery, the mythical Massada was left alone for centuries on end. But now, a few thousand years later, it has become a huge tourist attraction!
You can climb Massada by a snake path -it is excellent cardio!- or you can be lazy and use the cable car that takes you to the top in only four minutes.
Once you arrive you get a magnificent view over the desert landscape and the Dead Sea. And of course you can also see the greatness of this once very powerful citadel.
Most buildings are now only a few bricks high, but with a guide you will learn a lot more about this wonderful place. Don’t forget your sunscreen, because at a height of four hundred meters the sun burns a little bit harder and you might just end your day completely red!
Within five minutes from this sinister place you can find one of the more famous national parks in Israel. You would probably not expect it in the middle of the desert, but there is a lot of water to be found in this park!
You can climb the Ein Gedi park all the way to the top or you can just cool off in the many waterfalls that flow through the hills and mountains of this arid national park.
If you have a little bit of luck you might even encounter some locals during your steep hike. Capricorns and hyraxes are seen regularly, but also hyenas, mountain wolves, foxes, and even leopards live here. These animals are mostly active at night, so you don’t need to panic thinking you might meet one of these predators.
The higher we climbed, the more exhausting the journey became. Meanwhile, it had become a little after noon, and the sun was at its fiercest. Once we got up, we saw no more waterfalls. Fortunately, we were rewarded with a beautiful view!
Not for very long though… Because we had to start thinking about our descent if we wanted to get to our van back in time.
In order to cool down our sticky heads, hands and bodies we freshened ourselves quickly in the transparent water of one of the streams before we would immerse ourselves in one of the saltiest lakes of the world.
The dead sea
Besides Petra, the dead sea stood on my bucket list for a while as well.
Actually, the Dead Sea is not a sea but a lake. With 429 meters below sea level, this is the lowest place on earth and every year the water decreases, and makes it vanish slowly.
Because the incoming water evaporates so quickly, there is a much higher concentration of salt present in this lake. Currently, the Dead Sea has the third most saltiest water in the world! In a normal sea you would find about ten times less salt than in the Dead Sea.
This salt ensures that everyone who swims doesn’t have a lot of effort to stay afloat. Once you splash into the water you automatically resurface at the edge of the surface!
From the parking lot we walked down until we arrived at a muddy and slimy beach. I cursed myself that I had not taken my slippers with me. The muddy sand and dirt quickly covered my shoes, as I could not walk barefoot because of the scorching hot underground.
Jumping into the dead sea with my shoes was not an option either, so I decided to throw my shoes out and run into the water like a mad man. Outside it was a whopping 37°C (98,6°F), and the seawater was only two degrees cooler (about 95°F).
Once you get in, you immediately feel how salty it is in the hot water. The crystals seem to adhere to your body instantly and they form a sticky shield until you scrub it off with soap.
When you pop into the water you kind of feel like a cork, because it is really impossible to stay underwater. My whole body seemed to ignore the rules of gravity, and for a moment I felt like a sort of astronaut who had just discovered the dead sea and was absolutely weightless.
The mud that lay beneath this salty water, seems to have a lot of healing effects and so you see a lot of people that rub theirselves with the dark stuff. I of course couldn’t stay behind, and along with my Costa Rican travellers, we underwent a beauty treatment with the mineral rich mud from the Dead Sea.
After our bodies slowly brined, we decided to have a quick jump into the pool that waited for us back at the top. Once we got in, I slowly felt the salt evaporating from my skin and I felt a lot fresher already. However… I was still looking forward to that refreshing soap I was gonna cover myself in once I got back to the hostel!
Israel… You’re amazing!
The last two days we ended in Tel Aviv. We didn’t do much more than sunbathing at some of the gorgeous beaches, besides chatting or partying. But hey… It is a vacation, so you don’t always have to do so much besides some relaxing!
After a very thorough border control at the airport it was time again for me to leave this beautiful country and to return to the small Belgium.
I will miss Sofia and Oscar! But fortunately, Costa Rica is a country which definitely is on my to-do list…
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.