Abstract: This week, you will read about the saltiest body of water in the world. It is called the Dead Sea! It is also the lowest point on Earth and a popular tourist destination. What is Jordan’s relationship with the Dead Sea? How does it help them live?
Jordanians are very connected to their environment. Tourism throughout the Jordanian environment is very popular. However, they also use their surrounding environment for daily life. Their surroundings determine where they live and their lifestyle. The mountains and hills up north receive more rain and are colder than the rest of the country; therefore, there is more farming in north Jordan.
The coral reefs in the Red Sea at the southernmost point in Jordan attract many tourists. The fish caught in the Red Sea are distributed to the entire country. Without that seaport, Jordan would have to import all of its seafood. Jordan may not have as many natural resources as the United States does, but it uses the resources it has efficiently. A particularly important part of their environment is the border area between Israel and Jordan, called the Dead Sea. Read on to learn more about it!
What makes this environment special or different?
The Dead Sea is on the lowest point of altitude on Earth. And in fact, the Dead Sea is not a sea at all because it is completely surrounded by land. Technically, it is a lake. Do you know the geographic difference between a sea and a lake? The Dead Sea is also the saltiest body of water in the world. Have you ever gone swimming in the ocean or tasted seawater? Do you remember how salty it was? Imagine it being ten times as salty! After I went swimming in the Dead Sea, I got out and dried off in the sun. When the water evaporated, I could see lots of salt on my body.
The high salt content in the Dead Sea has several side effects. First, there are no living organisms in the Dead Sea, or at least scientists have not found any, because it is too difficult to live with that much salt. Second, it makes you very buoyant. This means that you automatically float when you try to swim. I have been lucky to go swimming in it several times and it is a weird, but cool, sensation. To give an example, I can swim out to where I’m over my head and I can put my legs straight down and not move any of my body and I won’t sink at all!
What parts of this environment help people to live here?
First, the Dead Sea is a popular tourist destination. There are numerous fancy hotels on the Jordanian side and the Israeli side. This helps Jordan’s economy and employment. Additionally, the water and mud in the Dead Sea are extremely good for your skin. Many stores all around Jordan sell mud from the Dead Sea. This is a natural resource that Jordan can sell to make a profit. Overall, the Dead Sea helps Jordan economically.
What challenges do people face living in this environment?
It is very difficult to live by the Dead Sea. Since it is the lowest point on Earth, it gets extremely hot. This entire week, the high temperature for each day was between 99 and 102 degrees Fahrenheit! It is very difficult to live outside in temperatures that high, although Bedouins have been doing it for centuries. It is also isolated from major cities. The closest city is about a half hour away by car and you must drive through desert and mountains the get there.
How have people been adapting to this environment?
The people that live near the Dead Sea face similar problems that all Jordanians face, such as access to water and unemployment. As I mentioned in another Field Note, Jordan ranks 4th lowest in the world for the amount of water a country can access. To regulate water, each home only gets water delivered once a week. I don’t know any Jordanian that showers every day. At home, I only shower about twice a week to conserve water.
Since it gets so hot, Jordanians build their houses with very thick walls so it is difficult for the warm air to get in. Houses are generally cool year-round. This creates a problem in the winter, however, because houses don’t have heat. To keep warm, they use small gas space heaters. It is generally only strong enough for a small area so you must wear plenty of layers to bed so you stay warm. Although Jordan still has a ways to go until everyone has enough resources and a job, they do an excellent job with what they currently have.