Ma’In hot springs: Jordan’s natural spa
Sowayma, Jordan - Ma’In hot springs are nestled between steep mountains of Mount Nebo, where tradition has it that Moses saw the Promised Land and the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth and the world’s saltiest lake separating Jordan from Israel and the Palestinian territories.
A half-hour drive east of the Dead Sea via a zigzag panoramic mountain road, a lush area suddenly appears, breaking the monotonous arid scenery before a warm mist gently pats visitors’ skin.
Water can be heard splashing from the springs before it is actually seen falling from atop one of the mountains. The water is so hot in some areas that it can be uncomfortable to walk under.
Jordanian housewife Rawia Atasi said she had hesitated about taking the trip to Ma’In, which was recommended for treating her husband’s skin disease, because of previous experiences.
Atasi said she visited the area 20 years ago when it lacked adequate facilities such as outdoor washrooms or a seating area under the springs for families. At the time, the area attracted a mix of people, including single men, making it difficult for sensitive conservative women to remove their clothes and make full use of the minerals in the naturally hot water.
“This time, I and my husband spent three memorable days in the spas and we would like very much to come back again,” she said. “The place is completely renovated and it’s well worth to visit.”
Atasi said she was specifically surprised to be warmly greeted by staff members at the locally run resort hotel in the area. “The smiling faces were enough to remove previous misperceptions about the inhospitable demeanour of some Jordanians,” she said.
“The beautiful scenery and health services available in the spa, including skin treatment massages, using hot oils, salty water rich with minerals and even mud from the Dead Sea were just perfect and we pampered ourselves,” she said.
Western tourist reviews on the internet describe the location as “superb”, the spa as “charming”, rooms at a nearby resort hotel as “comfy” and the springs as “splendid”.
Ma’In is mainly known for the health benefits of its mineral hot springs and waterfalls in treating skin diseases, arthritis, respiratory, colon and bone illnesses, according to skin specialist Dr Wisam Habahiba.
“What distinguishes the Ma’In hot springs is that it originates from cracks within the rocks. It is 100% natural and includes no chemical elements, which makes it most suitable in the treatment of skin diseases,” he said.
“The place combines two advantages: the spring water and the sun, a natural source of vitamin D. Those two elements help moisten the skin considerably. Benefits to the skin are multiplied by oil massages available in the resorts.”
Ma’In features several springs with varying temperatures but they are similar in constitution of natural minerals such as sodium, calcium, chloride, radon and carbon dioxide. The temperature in some springs can reach up to 63 degrees Celsius; others are about 36 degrees.
Thousands of bathers visit each year to enjoy the mineral-rich waters of the hyper-thermal waterfalls, which originate from winter rainfalls in the highland plains of Jordan and eventually feed 109 springs in the valley. The water is heated by underground lava fissures as it makes its way through the valley before emptying into the Zarqa river.
Amman resident Shireen al- Sayed has become a regular visitor to Ma’In springs, a favourite family weekend escape.
“We were used to spending holidays on the Dead Sea or travelling abroad. However, for a change, we decided to visit Ma’In springs after a number of our friends described the place to us and the benefits of the springs as well as the natural beauty of the area,” she said.
Sayed said she was not disappointed. “The spectacular mountain views and the waterfalls, combined with the superb service, the delicious food and the tranquillity make the place unique among touristic attractions. In addition to the springs, there are caves filled with hot water rich in sulphate, which makes them natural saunas,” she said.
George Siouty, general manager of one of the spa resorts in Ma’In, points out that the springs have been known for their health benefits since Roman times. “This place has been singled out for the past 2,000 years for the ability of its water to cure skin diseases. People come to our resort to cure their bodies and souls, since the Ma’In hot springs include 16 minerals and it is totally free from any chemical,” he said.
Sayed has already planned her family’s summer vacation and will not need to worry about getting visas to visit foreign destinations. “I will repeat my visit to the Ma’In springs next month with the start of the school holidays, and it will always be among my first priorities as a vacation destination.
“Many countries have a seaside, but not all countries have Ma’In hot springs,” she said.