*Today’s guest post and photography by Sharon Cracknell.
I was very excited. I had finally booked myself on a tour of Masada and a visit to the Dead Sea. Masada was top of my list of must see destinations in Israel. It’s famous for the final battle between the Roman Empire and the Jewish rebels. This was going to be my highlight of Israel.
No room at the inn…
The collection point was the Grand Beach hotel at 7.30am. A big bus took me and other passengers from the hotel to a convoy of nine mini buses. These buses were numbered 1 – 9 and I was told number 9 was for my tour. I met an American lady, Shannon on the bus and we soon discovered we were on the same tour. Bus no 9. It was raining hard so we quickly found our bus and tried to board only to be politely told to get off the bus. Sharon and Shannon were not on their list. No room at the Inn. It was like like Joseph and Mary revisited! We had to stand in the pouring rain.
Our New Destination…Bethlehem?
As if an eyesore on the road we were then hustled onto the Bethlehem tour bus. “Oh dear. It looks like we are going to Bethlehem instead” drolled Shannon as the bus set off. We were in fits of laughter as the new tour guide started his Bethlehem spiel. Eventually, after much discussion over their radio handsets the bus stopped. We were hustled off the bus and back onto bus number 9! Destination Masada and the Dead Sea. Finally!
The Mighty Masada
Ami our guide was yet another witty Israeli cracking lots of jokes but with a fountain of knowledge about the history of the mountaintop fortress of Masada. It is located on the edge of the Judaean desert facing the Dead Sea on top of a big rock. Around 400 metres high and extremely isolated.
There is only one narrow winding path that leads to the fortress and funnily enough they call it the Snake Path.
Rave Parties and Underground Heating
Ami told us about the rave parties that King Herod held back in 31 BC. That they all got stoned on marijuana in a chamber that had underground heating! The heating was an underground fire pit on which marijuana plants were burnt. The smoke was then released into the chamber via wall pipes. Ingenious! You don’t have to even hold a spliff. Just stand in the chamber and breathe in the drug infused air!
The Infamous Masada Siege
Around a hundred years later it become home to a group of Jewish Zealots. Then came the Roman Empire and it’s conquest of Israel. The final invasion of the Romans against the Jews took place over 2,000 years ago in 73 CE. The infamous Masada siege. They they built a huge ramp using slaves who were Jewish and also friends of the Zealots living on Masada. They would not fight the Romans as it would mean hurting their fellow men.
In the end they chose death over capture by the Romans. When the Romans entered Masada they discovered all the dead bodies of the Jewish Zealots. They had committed mass suicide. 960 Zealots. They had killed each other until only one man was left. It was he who then had to kill himself. Such a tragedy.
The Lowest Place on Earth
Next the Dead Sea. The lowest place on earth. 422 metres below sea level. Here we visited the beach ‘resort’ of Kalia. No hiding behind a bush to change into your bathers. This resort had changing rooms, showers, bars and eateries. After a quick change Shannon and I were floating in the Dead Sea!
It was so cold. Not quite the temperature I had imagined. It was good fun though as long as you didn’t get any in your eyes. The Dead Sea has 10% more Imodium than the ocean and tastes revolting! I made the mistake of licking my finger. Yuck!
You Get what you Pay for!
I booked the Masada tour through touristisrael.com which I would highly recommend for the Masada and Dead Sea tour. Our guide Ami was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. It is an expensive day tour, however, I did experience another cheap tour which was a blur. It seemed like we were in an episode of the ‘Amazing Race’ rushing around to find the points of interest. The Masada tour was all about Masada and nothing else. It was fantastic.
www.touristisrael.com – the page with the tour: https://www.touristisrael.com/tours/masada-and-dead-sea-tour/
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