Perched by Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, there is a sweep of calm azure blue water surface spiked by columns of salt. At the lowest point on earth, you can witness chunks of salt deposits drifting on the water like melting icebergs. This almost quiet terrain is the Dead Sea, a background of the Biblical legend of Lots’ wife.
Looking back at the Biblical tale, the unholy cities of Gomorrah and Sodom were ruined by brimstone and fire, and she was turned into one of the salt statues. Many archaeologists reason, that the two cities; Gomorrah and Sodom lie immersed in the sea’s northern mudbanks.
Dead Sea’s surface 1300ft (397m) below sea level, lies at the footing of the Jordan valley, in the south of the Great Rift Valley. The valley starts in the upper reaches of the Jordan River and persists southwards toward the Dead Sea, east Africa, and the Red Sea. In places, the lake is a further 1297ft (399m) or so in-depth, and the lake’s bottom lies almost half a mile (0.7km) below sea level.
Against a setting of the rocky Judaean Hills to the west and Edom to the east and the tablelands of Biblical Moab, the Dead Sea extends for almost 48 miles (76km) along the valley floor and is 10 miles (16.5km) wide at its most expansive point.
The lake is split in two by the peninsula of El Lisan (‘the tongue). The northern part is the deeper and larger of the two, and the southern part of the lake – only 21ft (7m) in-depth on average – is where the crystal white salt columns can be seen.
The salt columns are the top coating of a thick blanket of residues that began to form more than 2.5 million years ago. Water from several smaller streamlets and the Jordan quickly dry up in the summer temperatures of more than 49°C (120°F), leaving residues of sand, clay, gypsum and rock salt on the lake bed. During cold winters more than 7 million tons of water pour into the world’s lowest point each day.