With antennae upon antennae placed upon tin shacks, the cracked, eroded red soil, and fishless metallic waters, this could easily be a colony on Mars. Only unfamiliar birdsong tells me different until the rude passing of a tour-bus. 

On reaching the beaches, I am disappointed to find litter in this strange ancient place. Glittering breakwaters caress incoming sand, rock and detritus. There is a lazy scouring of each other to form stripy layers of salt-laden clay. Nothing lasts. Even the boulders form the nucleus for a halite bombe, which will be re-broken and polished again and again into paste. Where fiberous plant-life has left its structure, crystals criss-cross and grow upon each other like some kind of weird moss. 

The water is thick and oily with salts, including that of sharp potassium. So dense is it, that even a tiny drop upon the tongue draws your entire conciousness. It isn’t merely salty. I can feel precious life leaving through my mouth, gripped as if by an electric current. I imagine weary travellers, who, having barely survived the journey here might collapse gratefully into the water’s embrace, head first. Such an unwary person might never emerge, albeit sinking is impossible. I have the benefit of millennia’s hindsight though, and wade gently to have my chef’s burns caressed and cleaned. It feels wonderful, and I could lose myself.

Where pools or rivulets of fresh water collect from the uplands, some plant-life clings. They meet the slivery foam, and from these struggle a bright green or turquoise algae. They darken and fall into pool bottoms as a dead mat. In other shallow bowls, ice-like shards of salt are pinkened underneath. This is the arcane flower of the Dead Sea, which can turn it red as spring melt-waters bring nutrients and fresh relief to the surface: a strange form of life, seemingly alien to our world. But life it is, and as old as life itself.



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