Masada and the Dead Sea
Masada is located south of Jerusalem, 1-1.5 hours drive from the city. We went there on a whole-day-guided tour on a big bus full of English and Spanish speaking tourists. I must admit that the guide was managing quite well to switch between the languages although his voice was becoming monotonous with the lapse of the time. However, when we arrived at the top of Masada he noticed that our family is asking a lot of questions about the place and probably therefore he decided to dedicate his attention to us and he got actually very excited when giving us the detailed information. Showing appreciation to someone’s work has clearly paid off:-).
Masada is the historical fortification overlooking the Dead Sea, with the ruins of palace erected by Herod the Great. It is one of the most important tourist attractions of Israel and the symbolic place for Israelis due to the role it played during the First Jewish-Roman War, when the fortification had withstood the siege of 2-3 months which ended in the mass suicide of its 900 Jewish defenders.
Masada was eventually conquered thanks to the assault ramp of 114 meters built by the Jewish prisoners from the neighboring villages. The construction of the ramp allowed the Romans to install a siege tower with a battering ram which helped to breach the walls of the fortress.
The top of Masada can be comfortably reached by cable car or by climbing the natural stony stairs. It is actually very interesting to have a guided tour there to hear about many interesting details concerning practical aspects of life in the fortress located in the middle of the dessert, like water supply or food storage.
Some 30 minutes drive from Masada, on the way back to Jerusalem we stopped at Ein Gedi beach to take a bath in the Dead Sea. Tourists are brought to the beach from the main building by a shuttle bus (5 minutes drive). The building is accommodating restaurant/cafeteria and the gift shop offering wide selection of local cosmetic products. Some tourist sources call Ein Gedi “the spa”. This term is exaggerated by far as the only spa activity available there is to put sum healthy mud on your body yourself :-).
It is an amazing experience to float on the water without an ability to swim because the power of buoyancy is so strong that it pushes the arms and legs above the water. At the same time every drop of water in your eyes causes terrible pain so that butting with sun glasses on the face is highly recommended. The beach has some basic facilities like chairs and showers. Natural mud pools are also located few steps from the sea.