zondag 10 november 2013

The Religion of Traveling, pt 3: Beauty & the Dead Sea Beast

For 3 full days and 4 nights, my friend and I were couchsurfing in Ein Gedi Kibbutz, which is one botanical garden. The atmosphere is totally different than in busy Jerusalem. While the latter is more a heavy Bach symfony, this place is more a Manu Chao song.
People share, know each other (in this small community), walk sometimes barefoot, all look free men, and not bound by religion. It is like living in the free paradise described in the famous book « the beach ». There are giant baobabs everywhere, and there is also some plant. Our host, a very easy-going guy, known by everyone, took us on the first evening already to a small look out point which is built out of respect for a dead friend, and under the stars he let us make music by drumming on some wind catchers. He also taught my friend about aloevera, which is everywhere. « It is almost like garbage in the botanical garden, » our host told her. My friend already took almost a whole plant, and put it in the fridge, because the sap of the plant can cure mosquito bites (which started to occur, when we went more southwards).

One day we visited the Dead Sea. Floating in the lowest place on Earth, is apparently very healthy. We got for free in the spa. No way how we did it. Or maybe a bit. We just ended up on the beach, in fact, not in the real spa, were floating there, and covered ourselves in mud. Everything for eternal youth, I guess?

The day after our host took us to Masada Fort. Very early in the morning my friend and I hiked up via Snake Path (name is because of the shape, not because it is full of snakes ; otherwise I would never take it), when the sun came up, and for many hours we enjoyed the history and archeology. While my friend dived in all the information, I dreamt how I would make an amazing romantic historical epos about the siege by the Romans, which ended when all the Jewish rebels killed themselves and their families, because they rather wanted to be free than slaves. I already decided to take a lot of epic helicopter shots, because the landscape is stunning : The salt, tectonics and the dry climate shaped some amazing features in the rock. Of course I also would work a lot with shadows, being lines of prison, to emphase the Jewish rebells were stuck. Yes, I can see this movie. I only need a good story, about love (maybe forbidden), and oh yes... money.

In the evenings and some mornings we share really interesting conversations with our host. He talks about his experience with the real religious people in Israel. We didn't know the religious people don't pay any taxes, and only pray. They got a lot of money from the government. In Antwerp, we've got also religious Jewish people, and they are quite isolated from the rest of our population. To be honest, I don't know anybody who has friends from that small island in my city. The religious people also don't go to the army, and our host claimed they were maybe the biggest enemy of the state, because they have their own court and rules. Sometimes, I wonder, what is Israel ? Also, in Jerusalem, we, or in fact my friend who read a lot about the coloniation of Israeli's in Palestine territory, had some discussions with our host, and although my friend likes to find strong arguments to make an opinion, I am still confused what to call Israeli, or what not. Jerusalem is totally different than Ein Gedi. In Jerusalem I couldn't relax, in Ein Gedi immediately, to give an example. In Jerusalem you've to dress like a penguin, here in Ein Gedi you can wear just your bikini... still... it is the same state, nation ? It is very interesting to hear stories, opinions... but at the same time so confusing.

On our third day, we went to the nature reserve. We hiked up via water fall to a look-out where we could admire the Dead Sea. My friend and I split up ; she wanted to refresh herself, and wanted to hike faster, while I wanted to take many pictures and footage. In the end, I hitchhiked with a guy, with his jeep full of yellow spots, with his hyperkinetic dog, the Dead Sea Beast I call it, who tried to push me out of the car. Or it seems. The dog was jumping to everything and everyone. When my friend and I were waiting for sunrise above the Dead Sea, and our bus to Eilat in the south, we met him back ; two times. He invited us to spend time on a local beach, but we had to move on. Our time in the Middle East is limited. The dog almost attacked my friend. He is quite a figure. Like our host. Ein Gedi is full of interesting relaxed people, all a bit quirky, but I love it.

I think these 3 days were full of nature, hiking, relaxing and beauty products. My friend and I bought enough mud to become real princesses with shining hair, but maybe it is not a good idea, because in the next days we go to a more « conservative » country. I don't know Jordan is very strict, and we'll have 'female traveler's problems ', but still... we don't know anything about the country, apart from the fact you can find Petra, one of the new World Wonders, there, and the idea it's the heart of the Middle East (neighbours are Syria, Iraq, Saoud Arabia...). We've got an Couchsurfing invitation from someone from Petra. I wonder which song will remind me to these country. 

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