I have always associated Bedouins as nomads- people who wander. With my recent visit to Jordan and the amazing interactions with plenty of local people, I gained more knowledge about them than I ever could by reading textbooks back in school. It is definitely true when they say, ‘Experience teaches you more’ as it was the case with me.
I came to know on our third day that our guide, Waleed, has Bedouin roots. With the urbanization of Jordan and especially with the opportunities in the ‘bigger cities’ like Amman, people are leaving the harsh givings of the desert in search for a more comfortable lifestyle. As we continued our journey and visited the destinations that Jordan had to offer, I learnt more and more than I intended to.
Bedouins in Petra:
I was slightly taken aback when I saw the people dwelling at Petra. They have the ‘Jack Sparrow’ face and looks as they have jumped straight out of the movie in front of me!
Most of them, from the ‘Bedul Tribe’, have the similar look with their curly hair and kohled eyes. Surprisingly, all of them speak good English as well even though most of them have not been to schools.
Prior to declaring Petra as the World Heritage Site, these people used to live inside the rocks and caves. Summers or winters, this was their abode. I even came across a story on CNN recently wherein a Bedouin apparently opened up his cave for travelers to stay while visiting Petra! Who wouldn’t want a piece of that heaven!
Post the bestowed title for this place, the King of Jordan, constructed apartments for the Bedouins, outside Petra, and pushed them to move out. People of Petra fearing the loss of the habitat made a pact with the King promising them to own all the business inside of the premises for the tourists. This is the reason why you see them everywhere inside, pushing mules, camels and carriages to selling postcards and Arabic incense.
This little junior here after trying to sell us his postcards came behind us asking for sweets! The King of Jordan has made it mandatory for every child to complete high school. As it was the weekend when we visited, we saw plenty of children hanging around in the caves, playing hide and seek. Petra, our life long dream destination, is a play ground for them, something they see everyday.
I need to talk about this man below who made me laugh so hard! His name is ‘Lost in Petra’ or so he introduced himself to us. His Facebook page suggests the same as well and we had a very interesting conversation with him!
Ajay Jain, from Kunzum, has created this video during this interview with him. Do watch this to experience Bedouins and their sense of humor!
Bedouins in Wadi Rum:
Completely different from the Bedouins of Petra are the ones from Wadi Rum. Some of them, we spoke to, has never been beyond the vast expanse of their dearest ‘Moon Valley’. Staying in a typical tent specific to Wadi Rum, made out of goat hair, these people unlike the Petra dwellers, do not push the tourists or customers to buy items from their shop.
They stick to their rules of hospitality and provide bottomless hot coffee to anyone who drops in. The items they sell are mainly handicrafts made by their own folks back in the village, the most famous being the Arabic perfumes.
Most of them may not be nomads in the true sense anymore, with most of them cultivating crops in small pieces of land but a few of them still move from place to place looking for greener areas as pasture land. Outside of the rule of the King, a few of these tribes have their own social mechanisms to keep the order in their society and the ruler has accepted them as a social backbone to their country.
Wadi Rum, is almost always associated with the famous of Lawrence of Arabia. Its been over 100 years after the British army officer, T.E Lawrence, passed through this desert and Wadi Rum is exactly as described in his text account of ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’. Years later, after he led the tribes of the ‘moon valley’ to win a war against the Ottomans in 1917, the face of their dear leader is carved in by the Bedouins to remind them of their history.
As the rest of my team spoke to them about their life and dreams, I couldn’t help wonder how similar our thoughts are, yet so different the situations we come from. At the risk of sounding like a posh city girl, I have to say that I found their life extremely interesting.
If there is ever a next visit to Jordan, my itinerary is going to include a couple of days stay with these folks. With their simple life and with no real concept of money, I want to know if I could live the same as them, if not for a long time, at least for a week!