It is true that nothing can live in the Dead Sea. This includes iPhones. My iPhone, to be precise.
There are three things I recommend not doing at the world’s saltiest body of water:
- Letting any of the water get in your mouth.
- Cutting yourself on the sharp salt deposits.
- Leaving your iPhone in your pocket as you go for a swim.
In the space of 15 painful minutes, I managed to achieve all three.
The day had started bizarrely enough. Driving from Madaba down to the Dead Sea via Mount Nebo, we passed by a young Jordanian boy on a giant camel. He beckoned for us to slow down and as we pulled over he urged the camel to stop and lower itself. Watching a camel transition from standing up to lying down is kind of like seeing a complex series of movements performed by a marionette controlled by an inexperienced puppeteer. First, it jerks forward, threatening to unseat the rider as its front knees buckle. Next, the back legs cave, tilting its whole body backwards, until finally the knees fold like a concertina, inwards and underneath, like the corners of gift wrap folded expertly around expensive perfume by assistants at grand department stores. The whole motion takes a good few seconds, during which it never seems completely comfortable, and reminded me of a transformer going from robot to car.
The boy invited me to get on, and I was so surprised and excited that I climbed out of the open car window, without the shoes I’d taken off because of the heat, and bounded over to the giant dromedary. Taking care to hold on tight, I was elevated to about two metres off the ground and off we went down the road, leaving Emily Benjamin in the car gaping. The boy seemed to want to take me all the way back to Madaba, but I managed to convince him to turn around. After Emily’s turn came the negotiating. Of course we were expecting to pay, but his first offer was outrageous. Delivered with a smile, at least, in the way that gentlemen highwaymen of old are supposed to have done. He seemed happy enough with the 9 dinar or so we eventually gave him.
Just two minutes further down the road, we saw a crowd of people clustered around some cars. Would you believe that not two days after joking about rallying in Wadi Moussa, we had come across the latest stage of the World Rally Championship, and there, just off the side of the road was Sebastien Loeb in his Red Bull Citroen. The Jordanian Rally is apparently running here for the next 3 days and we caught sight of Petter Solberg, Kimi Raikkonen and a host of others, as they were preparing for stage 2. The throaty growl on their cars is incredible in real life and they threw up a tremendous amount of dust as they powered away over the hills. As we continued on our way, we passed a number of other rally drivers blasting along the roads, presumably warming up the engines or tyres, and as we got onto the Dead Sea Highway, there were yet more, either running laps or moving between stages. The sound of the engine echoed against the cliffs, making it sound like there was an airport or two nearby and planes were constantly coming into land.
And finally to the Dead Sea, which is indeed remarkable. There is a funny feeling wading out into water where it actively seems to be resisting you. I took the plunge and sank a little, only to be propelled back up like a cork out of a bottle of champagne and coming to rest on my back, positioned as if on a sun lounger, with knees and shoulders comfortably supported and core muscles switched on. Wading back to land to get a camera, I managed to cut my thumb on the coarse salt covered sea floor, which hurts, a lot, in a 60% saline solution. On my way back into the water, I slipped, keeping the camera above water, but getting some salt water in my mouth, ensuring chapped lips for the next 3 days I’m sure. And finally, when we were done playing around, slapping Dead Sea mud all over, washing it off, showering and relaxing by the pool, I realised my phone had been in my pocket the whole time.
As a result, I now have a set of photos where I’m floating on the Dead Sea in blissful ignorance as salt water slowly seeps into my phone. Despite 20 minutes blowing hot air through it from a hairdryer and leaving it for a couple of hours before turning it on, it was not to be. The phone flickered on, gave one long painful, drawn out death rattle and was silent. I don’t know if it was the water, or the salt, but it’s gone. The Dead Sea killed my phone. Or rather, I killed it at the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea doesn’t kill iPhones, forgetful muppets kill iPhones.