Built between 37 and 31 BC, Masada is one of the four palaces that Herod the Great ordered to build in his kingdom. Once we arrived, we understood why he had chosen this isolated mass, very difficult access. Whoever approaches will be seen from a distance. He ordered that ten thousand weapons be placed there, guarded by half a hundred soldiers in case they were necessary.
I was not wrong when I said it was before the very scene that Herod had contemplated two millennia ago. Even though two millennia are nothing on the Earth's time scale and that, although climate change and the human hand have already taken shape (the Dead Sea has shrunk and, as we know, it will continue to decrease), the visual horizons remain, are virtually unchanged. From the top of the fortress, we were intoxicated. With the amazing colors with which the sun paints the mountains of the Judean Desert on the west side. With the reflections rendered by the calm mirror that is the Dead Sea on the east side. And with that feeling of being at the top of the world, even though we only reached an altitude of just 400. During the great revolt of the Jews against the empire of Rome, a group of fanatics surprised the soldiers who held the weapons and occupied the fortress. The Romans took a long time to reconquer (they had wandered for a year before entering the fortress). They even had to build a road on the ground, the "snake way" - with the intention of decimating all the occupants.
Listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Site in 2001, the Masada Fortress is currently Israel's most visited venue, at least in the paid attractions statistics. The Holy Sepulcher, the Via Dolorosa, and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, remain of this account. We are waiting for a museum that largely explains how the fortress was built and, for example, the degree of complexity of its reservoir system. An advanced engineering work in which the immensity of the "holes" dug in the stone to retain rainwater is only the most visible face. The rainwater came down from the mountains of Jerusalem and was held there to serve a community that, among other things, had become accustomed to the sumptuous thermal baths, even though it was in the middle of the desert.
In my opinion, the best way to feel about Masada is not a sightseeing tour, nor a quick tour of the fortress in the middle of the day (desert temperatures become unbearable). I was one of those who made a kind of excursion, without autonomy to choose my schedules. But after reading reports and having had the experience of seeing the sun rise on the Dead Sea from the balcony of a hotel, I easily realized that the greatest experience of all would have been different: watching the sun rise, sun from the top of the fortress of Masada. The best way to feel the magic of this place is to set up the camp near its base - there is a hostel that serves this purpose well, has a hard time filling up easily - and gets up more than an hour before the sunrise. You will have to pay for the ticket (cheaper than the cable car) and face at least 45 minutes of climb. As the day is not yet born, the temperatures help the walk. You must not worry too much about the bowl of water that will empty at the top. There will be plenty of places to fill up in the public fountains that are incredibly cool despite the desert temperatures. The reward of the effort of the walk will come a few minutes later when, above the mountains of Jordan, you will see the sun reflected in a Dead Sea that will paint an incredible shade of red. After being intoxicated by this symphony of Nature, you are ready to visit the complex and leave with the feeling that yes, it was at the top of the world, although it is incredibly low. And you'll start smiling, complacent, the way you hear the term "nuisance" in our everyday conversations.
There is no road map to Israel that does not include a stop at swimming in the saltiest sea in the world. Incarcerated in the middle of a desert, it is well known that the threat of disappearance is not in vain. Around this sea, we noticed the "seaside resorts" which, during their construction, had the banks at their feet. Now they are separated by several hundred meters. This is the case of the spa Ein Gedi, a kibbutz that has managed the feat of building in the desert a botanical garden that has in its collection more species of trees and plants (some from tropical countries). Established in 1956, this kibbutz (an Israeli originality) is a form of settlement that in most cases resembles a closed condominium whose organization was inspired by communist ideas, with all residents receiving it and working for good in the community and, at least theoretically, having the same standard of living) deserves a visit.
The Dead Sea Factory occupies a large part of its coast - it deserves an approach for those who love the industrial landscapes - the other by a hotel wall, with stations conditioning the access to the beach to its customers and preventing the access to the water from 18:30. Fortunately, you do not have to stay in any of these hotels to take a mud and salt bath. In the middle of the hotels, there is a public beach, which is the only option for those who, like me, have stayed in one of these hotels but do not resist a night swim at night. The experience of entering the Dead Sea is a surprise. Even after reading the recommendations that do not dive and after being warned in various stories of the incredible pressure that lifts our legs and makes swimming a breeze, the first contact with this water is an experience and both. It's not the salt density that impresses the most - and it's so high that a single grain seems to burn our tongues. What is unforgettable is its texture, an extreme oil: it seems that we dive into a giant bath of essential oils. Okay, maybe it misses a more pronounced smell, since this sea did not feel at all. But I left with the real sense of immediate hydration