From time immemorial, nature manages to surprise humanity by offering life in surroundings which can be seen to be a synonym for misanthropy. One of these surprises can be found at the Dead Sea – it is called Ein Gedi.
Ein Gedi is situated in Israel, in the northern part of the Negev desert at the edge of the Judean desert. As already described more detailed in my article about Matzke Dragot, it is not only the desert which makes the area become a moving still life. There is an atmosphere of tranquility and peace. But it is deceptive because the water of the Dead Sea – with its high salinity – can cause quick death when swallowed and the heat can cause serious health conditions. In winter the area awakes and raging rivers can cause to be in life danger before you can turn around.
However, it is proven that humans have been settling in this area since the 4th millennium BC. The Dead Sea has even been one of the first health resorts which was used by Herod the Great (74/73 BCE – 4 BCE). Despite the fact that they can barely offer basic things, many places in the Israeli desert have a long history of human settlement. Another example is the ancient fortification Masada.
Ein Gedi itself is an exception – it is an oasis – the reasons why there is even sweet water in summer. That was probably one of the causes why the Kibbutz Ein Gedi was found in 1956. Today it offers many tourist attractions, a youth hostel and has an own beach at the Dead Sea.
I have visited this area many times in the last years but when I went to Ein Gedi beach this year, I was a bit surprised. It was not hard to realize that there is a big construction site at the road which is connecting the seaside with the Kibbutz’ area. But this does not only cause a diversion of traffic, but also makes it impossible to reach the Ein Gedi beach by car or bus.
When I went there last year there have been many tourists. They enjoyed the health benefits and the feeling of floating on the water. They were offered food and drinks in cafes, shadow, deck chairs and sanitary facilities to get rid of the oily and salty crust which one gets after entering the water.
While I was walking from the parking lot – which is at the entrance of Ein Gedi Nature and National Park – I had to cross the street or the construction site in order to reach the other side of the street which guides to the beach. Then I started walking on the huge promenade which has had better times. The colors of the street lamps, benches and shadow providing metal constructions were faded. To be honest it suited quite well, as there is nothing special to see on this way, except the view on Jordan and the Dead Sea which is loosened by some desert plants and trash.
When reaching the parking area of the beach, I felt like being in one of these forgotten and left cities in movies. No car was being parked and tares started to make their own way through the ground. I continued walking and entered through a huge ring bending which is like an ancient gate to the salty water. There are bathrooms next to the entrance which have been locked in such a way as it seemed they have not been used for decades. It was a bit weird to see so, as I could remember being there myself in a lively atmosphere.
However, I continued my way down the stairs to finally reach the Dead Sea. While walking I saw all of the empty static parasols without anybody being there needing them. I am sure, that they have had glory times once which might have gone together with the people. I passed a life guard tower which only stood there as a decoration, because no service was offered. Finally I reached the water.
Some tourists got lost there, too . They tried to enjoy the adventure of floating and covering oneself in mud. It felt like a big Siesta: A dutch couple listening to Reggae music, smoking weed and enjoying a water melon with Vodka; a British family with a concerned mother who did not enjoy seeing her kids playing in the water, while knowing it is dangerous and two old Russian couples who seemed to have never been more relaxed in their life. And then there came a cat. It was covered all over in salt and was obviously somehow living and surviving there.
It became a lonely place – who wanted to enter had to overcome a simple fence. Those who did, quickly realized that the fact of not operating this place gave it an extremely vibe of intimacy. We shared a place which has been left by side and did not offer any service, nor was it a place which is comfortable to chill outside – but there was silence and peace. The heavy heat of the midday sun started to get ready for its climax. But no one really cared as there was no real reason to leave.
It was a weird experience, not only to see how a place can change within some months completely, as one also connects experiences and feelings to objects. Moreover it suited the frame of the Dead Sea area: It is filled by sticky, hot air which reflects the water and the colors of the stones because of the salt which vaporizes. A frame which does not seem to welcome human life at all. But one that is still situated in a man made place which was left behind and turned itself adrift.