WASHINGTON, February 28, 2012 – Pilgrims and tourists who visit the Dead Sea soon will have more than mud packs, seaside resorts and Lot’s wife to call on.
Coming in April is a new multi-million dollar museum on the Jordan side of the lake about one of the world’s most fascinating natural features. It’s all about the geological, human, and ecological history that spans many centuries.
Located in Ghor es-Safi, Jordan, The Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth has a scheduled April opening very near the Byzantine era monastery that commemorates Lot’s cave and his flight from the wicked ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah which God destroyed.
The Old Testament describes how Lot and his two daughters escaped the destruction and hid in a cave, but Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt because she disobeyed God and looked back at the cities (Genesis 19). A natural formation on a hillside above the Dead Sea is tagged Lot’s wife pillar.
Jesus Christ recalled the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Luke 17 when he warned “Remember Lot’s wife” and said that “it would be the same on the day the Son of Man is revealed,” meaning every person’s eternal destiny would hinge on their spiritual allegiance to God or something earthly.
The Dead Sea has also been called the “Sea of Arabah”, the “Salt Sea,” and the “Eastern Sea” in the Bible. The Arab people have always known it as Bahr Lut (Lot’s Sea). The surface of the Dead Sea is at 1,312 feet below sea level, making it the lowest water surface on earth. The lake is 47 miles long and has a maximum width of about 10 miles.
The new museum’s permanent exhibition hall has four sections with different themes:
Origins of the Dead Sea; Eco-system; Man and the Dead Sea; and Will the Dead Sea Really Die? The Dead Sea’s conservation needs run throughout the exhibits, and the museum’s two documentary films, “Ecology of the Dead Sea” and “Dead Sea in Danger” contribute to the appeal.
Ancient tombstones also contribute to the museum’s story. They were recovered form the region’s many cemeteries of Arab, Jewish and Christian communities of people who lived and died through the ages. There are also artifacts from the sugar industry that flourished during the Mamluk period (13th-16th centuries) in Zoar (now Safi), as well as handicrafts and daily implements used by Bedouin and villagers who live in the area today.
The Dead Sea has drawn pilgrims and tourists to its shores for centuries. It’s bounded on the west by modern Israel and on the east by Jordan. Hotels and resorts populate the area, and visitors often indulge in spa mud therapies and sea floats in the mineral-laden water that keeps them afloat.
The Dead Sea has no outlet, and fresh water evaporates quickly because of the hot desert climate. It is seven times more salty that the ocean. Fish cannot live in the water, and most other life forms perish there also. The sea’s chemical products such as potash, bromine, gypsum, and salt make the sea economically valuable, as does the growing health resort industry.
Read more of Ruth Hill’s faith travel columns at Contemporary Christian Travel in the Communities @WashinghingtonTimes.com
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