Journey To The Dead Sea And The Ancient Fortress Of Masada
Walking around Jerusalem at night is such a different experience to what we’d had in the afternoon thus far.
In the afternoon, it had been very much about religious sites – fairly serious, I guess and definitely more conservative. At night, however, the city was more playful as residents and visitors alike put on their gladrags and headed out for a night of fun in town.
Like there was a concert down one corner, people dining alfresco and by the time we got to Mahane Yehuda Market, what would have been a typical market selling all sort of ‘market-y stuff’ (I think food but didn’t come here in the day time so can’t be too sure) turned into a bit of a party hub!
And this was during a weeknight too (apparently in the weekend, you can’t move here for all the reveller out for drinks and fun).
The vibe in the market was so much fun but alas, we couldn’t stay too long as we had dessert plans at the nearby Machneyuda restaurant.
Machneyuda is one of those places in town that you have to make a reservation for otherwise risk missing out on all the fun.
Thankfully, we had in advance and with that, we dove right into some delicious cocktails as soon as we got there (actually, we had to wait a few minutes for our table to be ready and already had complimentary cocktails while waited).
Inside, it’s all about fun here. Like one minute you’re chatting away, sipping your cocktails and the next, the lights are dimmed, the music goes even louder and an impromptu dance floor is created.
The chefs even join in on the fun, banging away with pans on the (newly formed) dance floor and even dancing on tables. It was just the most amazing atmosphere and one where you’ll struggle to stay on your seat for very long (the lure of that dance floor is real 😆 ).
Dessert was something of a brilliant first. We went for a shared selection of desserts (which is what I’d totally recommend you get here) and your table is set up with tin foil over it, cutlery at the ready.
Then out of nowhere, the chefs come out dancing to your table and start to throw things on it.
Splash, drip, splatter – things go everywhere (surprisingly, none of this gets on you – which is how you know this clearly ain’t their first rodeo) and before you know it, you have an incredibly delicious cornucopia of sweet treats on your table.
Once we stopping grinning and half-screeching in delight at everything that was going on, we got stuck in dessert at which point, I very clearly recall Lloyd saying I looked like a pig at a trough. I just couldn’t stop eating.
Just when I thought I’d found my favourite piece of dessert, I’d taste something else and decide it was my favourite. Long after everyone at our table had given up, I just kept going, it was just so good. It’s something of a small mercy that I didn’t poke anyone’s hand with my dessert fork and I was moving across that table and world record-setting speed.
Seriously, I can’t recommend this place enough! It was amazing!!!
Eventually, we gave into our sleepiness (well past midnight) and made our way back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep!
The next day, we packed up, had another delicious breakfast at the Mamilla and said farewell to Jerusalem. We would be making our way over to the Dead Sea, via a few important stops.
First off was Qasr el Yahud, an important pilgrimage site on the River Jordan where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist.
By this point, the heat had started to change creeping up a lot higher than it had been in Jerusalem.
After spending a little while here, we carried on to Masada –an ancient (UNESCO World Heritage) palace in the mountains built by King Herod.
The palace here dates back to 37 – 31 BCE and is a rather impressive place to visit.
The palace is set up in the mountains and you can choose to hike up to it but there’s also a cable car and in that heat, it was definitely unadvisable to do the hike (in fact some times, in the peaks of summer, no one is allowed up there as it gets really hot and even the tour guides faint from the extreme heat).
The cable car up is pretty quick and within a few short minutes, you’re up on the mountain, looking over the view of the Dead Sea in the distance and the surrounding mountains/dessert.
Another reason why Masada is quite popular is because Masada was the final stronghold of the Jewish rebels decades later when the Romans took over the land.
There was a siege here held by the Romans which was ultimately successful as the broken down the barrier and stormed Masada but was also ultimately tragic as the rebels here (except for a couple of women and children) had all committed mass suicide (apparently, they’d made a pact to murder each other instead of living as slaves to the Romans).
Ironically, the elevation of Masada isn’t actually that high above sea level, it is right next to the Dead Sea, which is the lowest place on Earth so relative to the Dead Sea, it looks very high and indeed, is quite high to get to but relative to the rest of country (and indeed, the world), it’s not too high.
With that we set off to explore Masada, stopping off to check out ancient frescos in the walls of the palace…
The view from the Northern palace is actually quite impressive and I definitely recommend not just checking it out but also to head down to the lower terrace to take in the view from there too.
It’s a bit of a trek down, but it’s actually quite easy, even in the glaring sunshine.
Heading back up, I went for a jaunt around the palace, marvelling at how amazing it was that thousands of years ago, with none of the technology that we have right now, an impressive palace like this was built.
Eventually, we hopped back onto the cable car and made our way over to our hotel by the Dead Sea.
Now, this was our second time to the Dead Sea but it was definitely a much better experience of the Dead Sea (I’ll tell you all about the first time in a different post – the reason why it wasn’t that great that first time was actually nothing to do with Jordan but instead to do with the driver we’d hired for the day. It wasn’t like terrible but it certainly could have been much better. Anyway, that’s a story for another time really…).
We arrived at our hotel early so while we waited for our rooms to be ready for check in, we got changed and headed out to the hotel’s private beach on the Dead Sea.
I kid you not but this was the hottest beach and hottest water we’d been on. It was all to do with the time of the year we visited too. See, by the time we got here, the temperatures had soared from like 28/29C (around 84F) in Jerusalem to 40C by the Dead Sea (104F). Soooooooo hot!
This, of course, meant the water was like a nice rather warm bath and so easy to get into.
That sensation of floating here is still one of those amazing things that takes some getting used to. It’s just so surreal to be suspended at the top of the water due to no effort on your own.
The high salt content in the water is the reason why you float and once upon a time, the Dead Sea apparently used to be part of the Ocean.
It was subsequently cut off from the ocean by changes in the land due to the movement of tectonic plates and with just the River Jordan as its main source of water, slowly started to dry up, making more land appear with the receding water – ergo why it’s the lowest place in the world.
At the current rate, it will eventually disappear at some point in the future as it loses more water than it gains.
After a few hours on the beach (and slathering on that Dead Sea mud), we decided to head to the hotel to check in and cool off from the heat. You can only spend so long in the salty water – which was fine as the hotel also had two huge pools to lounge about in.
With that, we pretty much spent the rest of the evening chilling with cocktails by the pool, dining at the amazing hotel buffet (hotel buffets can sometimes be hit or miss and I generally tend to avoid them – particularly for dinner, not breakfast but the one at this hotel was so good! Which as it turns out, was quite a trend across our time exploring Israel – the food here is absolutely incredible, so much so that said deliciousness shows up in buffets like this).
With that, we decided to call it an early night. The following morning would have us waking up bright and early to head out to the desert and check out one of the most amazing places in Israel.
More on that in the next post.
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