Saturday, October 19, 2013

Dead Sea, Jordan

Dead Sea, Jordan by GlobeTrotter 2000
Dead Sea, Jordan, a photo by GlobeTrotter 2000 on Flickr.

The Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and Palestine to the west. Its surface and shores are 423 metres below sea level,Earth's lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea is 377 m deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 33.7% salinity, it is also one of the world's saltiest bodies of water, though Lake Assal (Djibouti), Garabogazköl and some hypersaline lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica have reported higher salinities. It is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 55 kilometres long and 18 kilometres wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.

The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. Biblically, it was a place of refuge for King David. It was one of the world's first health resorts (for Herod the Great), and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. People also use the salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea to create cosmetics and herbal sachets.

The Dead Sea seawater has a density of 1.240 kg/L, which makes swimming similar to floating.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Petra, Jordan - Al Khazneh ("The Treasury")

Al Khazneh ("The Treasury"‎) is one of the most elaborate temples in the ancient Jordanian city of Petra. As with most of the other buildings in this ancient town, including the Monastery (Arabic: Ad Deir), this structure was carved out of a sandstone rock face. It has classical Greek-influenced architecture, and it is a popular tourist attraction. Al Khazneh was originally built as a mausoleum and crypt at the beginning of the 1st Century AD during the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris. Its Arabic name Treasury derives from one legend that bandits or pirates hid their loot in a stone urn high on the second level. Significant damage from bullets can be seen on the urn. Local lore attributes this to Bedouins, who are said to have shot at the urn in hopes of breaking it open and spilling out the "treasure"—but the decorative urn is in fact solid sandstone). Another is that it functioned as a treasury of the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time of Moses.

Many of the building's architectural details have eroded away during the two thousand years since it was carved and sculpted from the cliff. The sculptures are thought to be those of various mythological figures associated with the afterlife. On top are figures of four eagles that would carry away the souls. The figures on the upper level are dancing Amazons with double-axes. The entrance is flanked by statues of the twins Castor and Pollux who lived partly on Olympus and partly in the underworld.