We drove an hour and a half to Masada first. The views going along the Dead Sea were just beautiful with the early morning sun shining.
When we got to Masada, we waited for a cable car. (There is a path up the mountain called snake path, but it takes an hour to hike, and being with a group made that impossible.) So we rode up the cable car and landed on top of King Herod's palace. King Herod built a variety of palaces to get away from all of his enemies. After the construction, Herod did use it to entertain, but probably not as much as he hoped because he died shortly after the construction. Another story is that a group of Jews were living in Masada and the Romans came to attack. After months of building a ramp to get their war machines up the mountain. The Romans did indeed make it up the ramp, burned the doors, took down the walls, and retreated to start afresh and attack the inhabitants the next day. Legend has it that instead of becoming slaves, their leader convinced them to all die. They had drawn lots for 10 people to kill everyone. They drew another lot for the one out of the 10 to kill all the other nine people and then that last guy killed himself. This story is debated (eh, I'd believe it) but they have found archaeological evidence of the lots of names.
Although this place was pretty much a ruins pile, they had rebuilt various buildings like the bath house. Alan really liked it because it is an engineering marvel. He really liked the system that collected flash floods that would supply Masada with water for the year. (It would also supply the bathhouses, swimming pools, etc. So much for being in a desert hahaha.)
After that, we headed off to Qumran. This was pretty disappointing, as you can only see one or two of the caves in which they found the dead sea scrolls. Also, the closest cave was about 200 feet away and you couldn't even explore. But they did have the ruins of the Essenes settlement...ritual baths, scriptorium, more ritual baths...(They REALLY like purifying themselves.)
Next up, and FINALLY (yay!) THE DEAD SEA!!!!!!!!!!!! Alan noted that the beach we were on was surrounded by land mines...oh well, just can't wander too far off the beaten path haha.
I could've spent all day relaxing at the Dead Sea. Now, there are a variety of health precautions to this because of the uber high salt content- don't shave the day of, don't get the water in your eye (really don't even put your face in the water), don't drink it, and inhaling it can kill you. Lovely.
But, besides that, it was an incredible experience! It was crazy just floating around with no effort. You can only stay in for 15 min max and then wash off with fresh water. So, we stayed in for 15, I coated myself with dead sea mud and sat out until it dried. Washed off, and then we hopped back in to collect dead sea mud and salt. (Now, of course they sell this stuff, but it's ridiculously priced!!...so, we collected our own :) ) There are just giant salt formations out there that you can collect from.
That was just wonderful. Loved it!!
After that, we came back home around 330 and relaxed, did laundry and other practical things. (One among them was to take a long shower....and I still felt like I smelled like Dead Sea...haha)
We had dinner and then we walked into the Old City and wandered to the Wall and the rooftop walk.