Only one and a half hours’ drive away from my home just outside Jerusalem lies the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth, whose water is so salty that the human body can float quite easily on its surface. It rains very rarely and the temperature there never falls below 20 degrees; thus in summer it gets excessively hot, but for the rest of the year it is very pleasant.
That is the place to which Yigal and I betake ourselves for a weekend very occasionally, about once a year, when we feel that we need to rest and recover from our hectic retirement. Our vacation begins once we leave the urban sprawl of Jerusalem behind and start the descent to the Jordan Valley, Jericho, and the expanse of salty water with occasional fresh-water oases below.
After we turn right and gain the road that winds along the shore, with the sea and the distant mountains on the Jordanian side on our left and the buttes and mesas of the barren Judean Hills, with the mysterious caves that once held the mysterious Qumran Scrolls, on our right, it feels as if we are in a different country. The scrubby vegetation that borders the sea gradually dwindles away, until there is nothing but rock and sand to be seen on either side of the road.
At last the oasis and promontory of Ein Boqeq, with its twenty or so hotels, comes into view, and we know that we are nearing our destination. The sleepy guard raises the barrier to let our car through, and all of a sudden we’re in the artificial semi-paradise that has been created along the shore, with its palm trees and geraniums, shops and restaurants, and the towering hotels which await guests from near and far.
Once we get to our hotel we are welcomed with delicious biscuits and flavoured water in the lobby, then taken to our room with its view of the sea and the mountains in the distance. The sense of peace begins to envelop us as soon as we enter, and that feeling of pampered well-being remained with us throughout our stay.
Of course, we weren’t the only guests in the hotel, and there was a veritable Babel of languages to be heard in the dining room, though Russian seemed to predominate. Many of the members of staff are also Russian-speakers, which doubtless make life a good deal easier for the tourists from those parts, many of whom seem to have no knowledge of any other language.
We bathed in the sea, where the hotel has a private beach, as well as in the hotel’s own salt-water and fresh-water swimming pools. We indulged in massages and aromatherapy, and I even ventured to try a cosmetic treatment, all of which added to our feeling of relaxation. In our defence, I must add that we both spent time in the hotel gym in an attempt to work off at least some of the extra calories resulting from the fact that we succumbed to the temptation to try too many of the chef’s excellent dishes.
There were no menus to plan or meals to cook and clear away. Our only chore was to turn up in the dining room for meals twice a day. I even managed to paint a couple of pictures (see above), finish the book I was reading and watch a film on television – something that I don’t often have the time and patience for in the usual run of things.
Our weekend break was over, and as we returned to Jerusalem the weather turned cold and windy and it began to rain. Ah well, all good things must come to an end.