Having ridden camels through the desert plains, climbed up the side of a mountain to get a better view of the dramatic scenery surrounding us and then watched one of the most magical sunsets I’ve ever seen, we gathered round a fire in the middle of a traditional Bedouin camp. As we joined in baking bread, we chatted and sipped a very delicious tea. We were all looking forward to the forthcoming feast.
The Bedouins, we were told, make money from the sales of the headscarves we had donned prior to our camel ride. We were also shown various herbs and oils as well as some jewellery that was only available from these nomadic tribes, although at this point I decided not to mention that I already owned something identical to at least one of the pieces of jewellery that I had bought in The Gambia in West Africa!
The Bubble Bursts
As the sky darkened, many candles were lit around the camp, adding to the romantic atmosphere. As I sipped a second glass of tea I pondered on what the toilet arrangements might be. With a mixture of amusement, relief and a little disappointment I discovered that the candles weren’t candles at all but electric lights and that the row of lights heading off to one side, lit the path down to the flushing toilets and sinks with running water! The bubble burst. Our desert, dining experience with the Bedouins crashed head long in to the twenty-first century, probably in much the same way as it did when the Bedouin Anisha was visiting brought out his laptop and logged on to Facebook (guest post: Getting to know Jordan’s Bedouins).
After a delicious meal of numerous dishes, including the best humous I’ve ever had, we were offered hokas to smoke. We declined and instead simply enjoyed the peacefulness of our surroundings.
Apparently there are very few cloudy nights in the Sinai Desert but we had managed to pick one of them. While this had given us the spectacular sunset it ruined the planned star-gazing which was limited to a quick glimpse, during a break in the clouds, of the moon, Jupiter and four of her moons. Never-the-less it was amazing to see them in such detail. The telescope we were using was the biggest portable one available and it certainly was impressive. Having fallen into conversation with our star-gazing expert we found out that it actually belonged to one of the Bedouins. They had just bought two of them. It appeared on the surface that the Bedouins were relatively poor but I can only imagine how much one of these telescopes cost and, she explained with a smile, it is not uncommon to find an expensive four-wheel drive vehicle or even a limousine tucked out of view from the tourists, behind their tents. They are in fact living very comfortable lives off the tourists and, of course, why shouldn’t they.
A camel ride into the desert by Kathryn Burrington
Girls Rights amongst the Bedouins of the Sinai Desert by Kathryn Burrington
Getting to know Jordan’s Bedouins by Anisha Shah
The origins of Middle Eastern Cooking by Diana Viola with Elinoar Moore