Bedouins and Jordan

I crossed familiar border. Ahmad met me on the Jordan side with my documents ready. We meeting second time with him already. We quickly stamped everything and went out to the Aqaba sea breeze.

I was picked up then by my friend guide Hammad and we drove to Aqaba to do food shopping. We stocked on fresh warm pitas in familiar bread place. The coffee store was maddening with the fresh coffee smell as they were grinding coffee beans with bergamot for us. We walked then to the goat meat shop where Hammad got large piece of goat with liver. We got some veggies, tea, big bag of sugar, cigarettes and were ready for the road.

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The market place is local and not touristy, so people around look at me with mixed reactions. Men’s eyes are popping out on me, European women are not very common here. Women look disapprovingly on my quide  and even more disapprovingly on my outfit. Bedouins though are known to work with tourists here, so that should be enough of explanation to them.

After having quick tasty coffee we head up to Wadi Musa, our place for 2 days. Yosef, owner of the tourist agency, has small place in the rocks of Wadi Musa right by small Petra. He likes to spend time there with friends and let sometime tourists to use it. I was that lucky tourist to be privileged to visit the “room”. The “room” looks like a small house made of stones and cement. The water has been filled into big canisters once in while and can be used for cooking and washing.

There is no electricity but lamp can be connected to the car generator. Heating is done by stove inside. There are only rocks around the “room” and I cannot wait to see surroundings in the morning.

Yosef makes fire in the stove and room gets warm and cozy. There are mattresses everywhere and pillows, lots of candles. One can probably get very romantic here :).

Hammad cooks meantime. Onions cut and lightly fried, then goes meat and liver chopped into small pieces followed by lots of spices. Tomatoes go the last. Very delicious smell fills the room.

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I cut cucumbers and tomatoes, the meat is in the middle, pitas are warmed on the stove – we are diving into gastronomical heaven. Frankly I don’t think I ate anything like this before. The goat meat is incredibly juicy, pitas are super fresh.

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Our dinner is followed by very sweet tea of course.They do whole kettle of sweet strong tea and drink it by small cups. They keep kettle in the stove and tea stay hot. The same was happening when we sat near the fire later. The kettle stays near the fire and kept hot for a long time. Sounds like a very good idea

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We play cards, tell stories and go to sleep on the mattresses.

Next morning we start with a strong sweet tea. I get outside with my cup to the astonishing landscape. I don’t think I saw places like these before, the beauty is overwhelming.

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There is no breakfast really for them, some nuts and cookies with tea. The custom breakfast in their families is freshly baked pita with goat cheese. They prepare dough in the evening and place it inside the stove in the morning, so whole family wakes up to the smell of baked bread. They cook one big meal in the evening. Dinner cooking is mostly done by men, women bake bread and do salad. But if there are guests in the house, men seat with guests and women cook. We didn’t have Bedouin wife handy with us so men had to cook :).

We walk around to see the mountains and small Petra. My guide Hammad tells me stories, shows old inscriptions on the walls and nabatean remaining. The area was used by nabateans in the past to stop for water for horses.

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The day finishes quickly and we get to dinner time. This time Yosef brings Maqluba dish from home, his wife cooked it for us. This called upside down dish, as rice, chicken and vegetables cooked in layers and then the dish put upside down on the big tray.

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The dish is fragrant and melting in the mouth, salad and pitas make it complete. We finish with tea and talks as I try to find more about their lives.

They are Bedouin men. They can have up to four wives. Each wife lives in a separate house with her kids. If Bedouin man takes another wife, he builds new house for her and her kids.

Bedouin women cover their faces when they go outside. It is customary. But inside the house they completely change for their husbands. I was surprised to see lots of sexy clothes in Aqaba, these are for inside the house.

The houses in wadi rum are well equipped with all modern facilities. There are hot showers and desert people keep themselves very clean. Both women and men dressed beautifully and very accurately.

Families keep camels and goats. The rest of food they buy in local markets. Everybody use smart phones and talk by whatsup :), facebook is as popular as in the rest of the world. :)

There are many rules for women to follow though. I felt like elephant in the room as I broke every possible rule and custom. Thanks god I was not born Bedouin woman. I would be returned back probably the first day :), following the rules was never my strength.

We meet rest of the group next day. We passing through Wadi Musa town and stopping for coffee of course.

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Then we meet two cooks Hamza and Salah in their jeep and while waiting they gather small wood branches around to make a tea. I was amazed by the custom of having tea and coffee in any possible place through the day. The moment we stop somewhere, tea and coffee will be quickly prepared on a small fire.

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Seating may take a while though, as we talk and also any Bedouin that passing buy will stop for tea also. We had Bedouin car with camel passing by at some point. They stopped and joined us for a while. They were relatives of our guide Hammad of course, as whole wadi rum is one big family.

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Wadi Rum dunes are popular for playing with jeeps. That’s what israeli group was there for. They came with their jeeps from Israel to test them in sands of Wadi Rum. Hammad was taking them various ways through the desert so they could make their jumps, climb sandy dunes and drive down steep slopes. Some people even drive up the rocks.

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Wadi Rum is chilly in winter. When we camped, the temperature in evening was close to four degree celsius. Seating near the fire was saving the situation. Sleeping as close to fire as possible or use caves was helping too.

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The nights are incredibly starry. When you look up you forget about cold outside, the view is astonishing. Also the beauty of morning and evening rocks exceed any existing standards of natural beauty.

Desert swallow you in it’s quietness, stillness, dryness. Bedouins walk slowly, talk slowly, smoke slowly. They notice everything without much moving. The fire smoke becomes part of you, tea fill you with sweetness and quiet arabic voices are mixing with desert wind. You became part of the desert and everything else is stopping to exist.

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Ella Goren

Ella Goren

4 COMMENTS

  • Olga says:

    OMG! Alka! Did you go alone? I would never do that! Do you have pictures of wives and their modern houses?

    • Ella Goren Ella Goren says:

      Ol’ka, they don’t make pictures of their wives, not acceptable. I haven’t been in their families, no :). But they do family hosting for tourists. You can visit and stay, it is all very comfortable. They will cook dinner for you and host you with high standards. Families with kids from Europe are coming to Hammad all the time. They spend days with him and also do climbing and hiking in the rocks. If you want to go I will connect you.

  • Dear Ella, good day, how are you doing? It was our great pleasure to host you in Little Petra, you are a great woman and deserve the best, I look forward to welcome you again to Jordan

    • Ella Goren Ella Goren says:

      Dear Yousef, incredibly grateful for your hospitality. Happy to meet you too! :). Yes, will be happy to be in Jordan again!

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