Pilgrim in Jordan – The Dead Sea Controversy

My trip to the Dead Sea was nothing short of a breathtaking experience – and a controversial one.

Standing at the lowest point of the Earth may not mean anything to anyone – I mean it is just the Dead Sea, right? Probably. But just like those who climbed Mt. Everest, their difficult journey to the tallest peak does have its merits to bragged about. While descending to the Dead Sea is an effortless journey (bar the difference in pressure that made my ears explode), it is what the Dead Sea represented that made it such a remarkable and majestic place.

If you’re not into religion or myths or anything spiritual then this might not mean anything to you. But standing at the lowest point on Earth and a miracle site (while cracking a joke or two about it with Hamza) does make you rethink a LOT of things.

Describing the texture of the water and the mud cannot be explained with simple words. You have to go down there and experience it for yourself for you to ever know what it feels like. I didn’t find it filthy or disgusting, but it was weird and the whole place was eerie enough for me to understand where the “Dead” part came from.

And yet in this Death there is a lot of life, ironically.

I updated my Facebook status and that sparked a heated 25 comment debate rendering it the most controversial Facebook status ever written!

So here I ask you: Is it haram/forbidden to visit the Dead Sea? If so… why? What’s the “permitted duration” of visiting “areas of punishment” (mawaqe3 el 3athab)?

I can’t help but feel that there IS something wrong with this place (although personally I have not dug deep into the Qawm Lot story) but even from a non-religious point of view the whole place freaked me out completely.

We went up to the mountains to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets ever experienced. The air was beautiful, cold, and strong. I remembered Safita with such a sunset, when a couple of friends and I would go watch it set over the sea of Tartous (if the horizon clarity permitted) and the weather and the clouds were as breathtaking as ever.

I felt rejuvenated, and engrossed myself in deep thought (which were completed in Wadi Rum, more on that in the next post).

I didn’t want to leave that place while at the same time I was so glad I did.

Another World

The sea whispered a tide longing for a melody. He acknowledged, but he, too, longed for a melody – that of silence. There was no wind, no gulls, no swaying grass. His breathing and the sea’s whispers were what filled the air.

I have not written in so long.. why I do not know. Is it because I have nothing to write about? On the contrary. There are so many emotions and feelings I would like to put on paper. Random thoughts that taunt me in my sleeping hours. To me in dreams they come, and in dreams they stay. I could not take them to paper anymore…

His dog heard neither the waves nor the breathing. Rather, he cared not for those – there were other sounds and noises that distracted him. An army of crickets were bickering about who would eat what was left of the grass -

But there is no grass!

- and they fidgeted about and made him dizzy. The dog looked the other way. He could hear some “quietness” from the other side. He wished to be there, away from the crickets. His owner was too busy though and he knew better not to bark right then. All he could do is lie low and hope the crickets would eat the damn grass already.

Dreams dreams dreams. Everyone dreams, but we do not all remember our dreams, and those who do, we do not remember all of them. Often when I’m stressed my dreams turn into nightmares and often I could not distinguish them from reality. I often feel someone is choking me and I wake up barely able to breathe. I wonder if I died in my dream what would happen..

The man sighed. He knew the sea would not give up and that he would not find his peace. He was an impatient man – if he had waited for some time, the tides would calm down. But that was uncertain. At any moment a wind might come unsuspecting and shake the sea and the earth. The weather is as random as what the future holds. He knew that the only way he could find peace is by giving the sea its peace.

Perhaps I’m too hard on myself. I think a lot of many things. They all jumble into big blobs of incomprehensible stupidity and drive me insane at night. I especially hate it when there is also a song that loops indefinitely for days. It is like I have my own personal music video every night.

The crickets seem to have decided that there is no enough grass to feed everyone and that whoever eats what is left of it, would get eaten by the other crickets. After lots of deliberation, they unanimously voted to go to another location where there is enough grass for everyone. Whoever did not unanimously vote will be left behind to eat said grass and be eaten by passing animals and birds. This is what the dog rationalized anyway since he could not find any other excuse for them to suddenly be quiet, pick up and leave. Or maybe, he thought, he was putting too much thought into it. Crickets don’t deliberate! But his owner isn’t moving anytime soon so he kept contemplating this idea and coming up with others.

And to think that sometimes there is no one but me and the sea. I could visibly see other cars dotting the shore. Some of them couples making out, others having some food, others dancing. I’m sure though there is an idiot or two, like me, sitting here in the car and watching the sea roll its waves on the shore. Are they drinking beer too? I love beer. Too bad it burns my throat. And now some muftis are saying non alcoholic beer has alcohol. Some people are just too bitter.

The man took out his violin. He never memorized any piece of music to play. Rather, he always played what he was feeling right then and there. He wasn’t a composer but in his mind he knew if he had written down the notes, he would make millions out of his music. But each piece is spontaneous and he could never play the same tune twice. It was a blessing and a curse. But he didn’t dwell too much on the idea – but while he did, it was translated into music. And he attained his closure.

I like it how we distract ourselves with some things to ignore other things. I mean what is the point of all this writing really? I couldn’t write anymore. I have not written in ages. And to think I actually have some published work! The irony of things. This is the best time to write and I am not taking my chances.

The dog was happy the crickets finally left. As soon as he put his head to sleep, his owner started playing the violin. Did he honestly have to? Sigh… it is fine, he thought. Let him play. At least now he knows it is a matter of time before the tune is over and they leave. So he ignored the tune and started to listen to something more peaceful. The sound of the sea and the light wind. The sea is such a relaxing place from up here on the hill. Probably if his owner would take him down he could play. But for now he has to make do with some relaxation. Probably it is best to rest. There are probably crickets down there.

 

Shore

Have you ever cared for someone,
You’d die if you made them sad?
You’d rather burn in the sun
And it would never feel that bad.

You give and give and never ask back,
And you refuse because it won’t feel right.
But all you do is burden your sack,
And drop another straw on your plight.

You keep your silence and your smiles
When the one you care for begins to scold.
Then you walk away the miles
Alone in the damp streets and cold.

You think of how to set things back
To the way they were supposed to be.
But all you do is to lose track
Of your emotions in the open sea.

And then your thoughts drag you down
A path so long, twisted and dark.
And your emotions you lose to own
And become your guiding ark.

The good times, and the bad,
They all return in a flash.
You realize what you once had,
Now a torn paper in the trash.

You reach your home and open the door,
And you hope that you would see
Her sitting on the couch waiting for
A smile to set you free.

And then she says “let’s walk the shore,
Because I do care about you and me”.

On a cold Tuesday, the 22nd of March 2005