When once my religion teacher mentioned Qumran and the Dead Sea, they were so far away from my reality that their existence almost escaped my mind into the realm of fairy tales. Nevertheless, with the innocence of a child, some part of me always knew that come time I would visit this magical land. I don’t know where from, but since this time I have always had a certain picture of this place in my mind, almost like a pencil drawing: Two boys. They stand on some rocks, facing away. Their gazes wander over the glittering surface of the Dead Sea that stretches out only meters beneath them. The sun burns down on everything around them, but they are sheltered by the shadows of the scarce vegetation, some old looking, brittle trees and bushes, that keeps them company where there is nothing else. Nothing else, but the secret. The secret that is buried in the caves, hardly more than holes, under their feet.
Reality crushed this image like the clay jars the Dead Seas Scrolls had been kept in.
Wasteland stretches out a few hundred metres between the Dead Sea and the surrounding mountains; and every meter stands between my image and reality. I like the place nevertheless.
Masada, the next day, reminded me of the Asterix (and Obelix(and Idefix)) comics. Located on a bare, (almost) unconquerable mountain it towers over the Dead Sea the astonishing view allowed us to make a game of spotting the remnants of roman camps to all sides.
Afterwards, while exploring the less frequented parts of the mountain fortress, we encountered another person. Don’t get me wrong, these parts of Masada were not so desolate that meeting someone else by itself is worth mentioning, the person itself, however, is. He fascinated by the ruins in an almost childish way that identified him as professor or scientist. As briefly as we saw him he seemed delighted to share his excitement with other people.
In the afternoon we hiked through one of the Wadis of Ein Gedi. I could try to describe the beauty of this river- oasis to you, but in time of photography this seems rather like a waste of time. In any way, neither a picture nor my description could capture the magic of this landscape to its full extent. Like any enchanted place Ein Gedi shows its true beauty only to those who enter through a certain gate. In this case the gate turned out to be a rather long journey through the desert.
In the middle of a barren wasteland a single tree seems much of a wonder, let alone a plentiful oasis. Walking in the riverbed (partially also in the water) we gazed in awe at plants climbing the stone walls of the valley. After passing a waterfall, our path came to an end at a series of natural pools, which made for cool refreshment.
Talking about pools, of course, we also went for a swim in the Dead Sea. Although swimming is not quite the right word for it, floating fits much better. That might not be news to you, after all I had heard about it too, but all of my expectations were by far exceeded. Where I had anticipated to be able to keep afloat more easily, it was practically impossible not to. Even when standing upright in the water more than enough of me showed to take a passport picture. However, everything comes at a cost. The salt that keep us afloat burned at a touch, especially in the eyes and when swallowed. In this sense the Dead Sea also exceeded my expectations by far.