With the Desert Bedouin in Wadi Rum

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November 1st 2017
Published: November 2nd 2017
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bedouin baby Adam and daddy Soleyman 1bedouin baby Adam and daddy Soleyman 1bedouin baby Adam and daddy Soleyman 1

Wall to Wall carpet and a low padded seat running all the way around the four walls.
Our Bedouin camp at Wadi Rum.

October 19th the final adventure. We are leaving the remains of ancient desert nomads behind to join living nomads inhabiting the desert today. From the Nabataeans to the Bedouin. They inhabit Wadi Rum which is also a UNESCO world heritage site. A 'Wadi' is the valley of a dry river hence Petra is in Wadi Musa. The &Rum& part I don't know about! Mind you, many of the men there could be family to Pirates from the Caribbean.... looking little Jack Sparrows, so who knows.......! 😎

Our driver was funny, fast talking, good natured with a thick accent. He obliged us by making photo stops as we left Petra.

The desert landscape continues to impress and stun me. Who knew that barren land could be so varied... rock types and their formations, the colours of sand and stones, the continuing changes. Then, as natural as you please, a camel or two would wander into view reminiscent of ellies in South Africa. This is their territory.

Arriving at the little village of Wadi Rum, to the simple brick home of Soleyman our camp host. Remove shoes at the door. Enter the well lit room. The entire floor is covered with red carpeting. Just inches above the ground, running the full length along all the walls, there is a platform for seating. It is covered with comfortable cushions and padding. A low round table sits in the middle of the floor. Our robed host is at the inner wall looking quite dignified. Two other men also wearing traditional dress join him. Introductions are made. Pleasantries exchanged. Tea is offered and served.

Then we do business. We negotiate the cost of a cabin for 3 instead of 2 persons, the cost of dinner, a camel ride, I'm urged to join the 4x4 jeep ride which I had declined earlier. The taxi back to Amman would be 20 JOD cheaper at 80 instead of 100. The per person cost for 3 in the cabin remained the same 9 JOD. My camel ride would be tomorrow morning and I signed up for the jeep tour which would be now, en route to the camp site! We asked to use the house bathroom (the *gulp* squat-over-the-hole-in-the-floor basic). We met Adam, Soleyman's lovely little 9 month old son. Smiling and cute, chubby face with dark eyes and thick dark hair. Two teeth already and more on the way. Beetling around in his stroller. We met his wife, quiet in the background, very shy, light brown hair. Dressed in regular clothes, her head uncovered.

Then we said our goodbyes and headed to the camp site via a 2 hour tour of the desert in a 4x4 jeep. There were 4 stops on tour. First Lawrence Spring. Camels and Bedouin were gathered here, an old camel watering trough at a place where water escapes down the side of a mountain slope. In the desert this is a priceless treasure. Named Lawrence for Lawrence of Arabia. As was a landmark formation of pillars we had just driven by.

Next stop a beautiful salmon pink sand dune where one could do sand boarding. We all declined. Then sat and giggled at a hapless tourist who struggled to walk up the long soft-sand incline, dragging a board, then tried repeatedly jumping on it. It never budged. She walked some more, repositioned herself and tried again. Same result. It seems boarding down soft desert sand is very different from snow or even concrete. She gave up. We drove on.

Third point a cavern /gorge. After yesterday's trek at Al Siq I was content to look on as the Intrepids followed our guide climbing along a narrow ledge leading to a cavern. It was not far. I sat in the shade of a tree and enjoyed the landscape. And the quiet. Final stop, #4 on the tour, a photogenic natural stone bridge. We clambered up, trotted over to the bridge formation and took the required photos. Intrepid Bishop was a bit skeptical but did it anyway.

I admit to some disappointment. The tour info and our guide's interest seemed totally focused on either Lawrence of Arabia or on a few big Hollywood movies that had been filmed there. We heard about them. But I wanted to hear about Bedouin people, their history, practices, culture, habits. I came away empty. #sad. From observation we saw that the men wear a checkered head wrap (quite fashionable with male tourists who were wearing them everywhere) and a floor length cotton tunic called a thawb or thobe. We scarcely saw women. Camp workers, restaurant workers, hotel staff, shopkeepers, souvenir vendors .... all were men. Except for that one young woman selling souvenirs in Petra.

Finally our 4x4 jeep headed to the desert camp site, Wadi Rum Sky Camp, 9km from the house in Rum Village where we had met Soleyman. The landscape is barren. Hard, craggy rock faces, towering sandstone with grotesque weather-cut shapes amid huge flat empty stretches of sand. Flat pink sandscapes where high rocky outcrops pop up, randomly scattered beneath a bright blue sky. There was not a cloud in sight. We were completely surrounded by the desert. Tough. Quiet. Beautiful.

Camp is cozy. Ours is the only &large& sleeping tent, with 8 other small square ones. They are simple, uniform. All are moss green with five horizontal cream bands. They look neat, laid out in an orderly square together with the food tent and the common washroom unit. Inside our tent are four single iron beds each with a sheet, pillow and blanket. The floor is covered with mats. Weathered carpets hang on the walls. A single energy saver bulb dangles inside the metal-framed doorway, brought to us by the solar panels we saw outside. It's comfortable in a basic fashion and definitely not luxurious but we were not expecting many comforts. It would be OK for the night. The bathroom building next to our tent is for use by everybody, all the sexes. A simple modern concrete structure it provided face basins, 3 above ground toilets with douches and 2 showers. Much better than we had expected. A separate women's facility is currently being built!

We rested for a while then walked out into the desert lying around us, to greet the sunset. It's silence is what impressed me most. Timeless. I soaked it in. Soon it was 7pm. Stars began appearing in the skies. Time for our Bedouin dinner around the campfire. We removed our shoes before stepping on to the floor, carpeted in the open air, finding a seat on cushions placed against the walls. Our Bedouin hosts fed the fire with desert scrub. They offered and poured tea in little glass cups. One of the men played a lute quite beautifully and sang a Bedouin song.

After a while we were invited to come across to the kitchen tent where the cook would unearth our meal. Food had been buried in the sand and cooked in a particular Bedouin style of cooking. It utilizes a tall two - tiered metal unit with a round shelf at the bottom and a wide cone-shaped section suspended above it at the top. Raw meat and vegetables are laid out on the unit which is then lowered into a circular metal drum permanently positioned in the sand. Firewood is placed in the drum which is sealed with a tight lid and completely buried under sand. It stays there until the food is cooked. They know how long!

The meal it produced was delicious, tender chicken with perfectly cooked potatoes and carrots. Other dishes including salad and a stew were done separately by the chef. There was a lot to eat and we were all satisfied.

Music and singing continued after dinner around the campfire and we gazed up at the skies heavy laden and dripping with stars. The entire heavens were overflowing. The stars seemed to hang very low, within reach. It was beautiful. Looking upward it was easy to understand how the planets dominated life before artificial light was invented. Easy to see how the heavens could preoccupy and rule man's thoughts. There is nothing to rival that spectacle. It inspires awe. I wandered a little away from the camp into the dark night, to be alone with the stars for a short time. Seeing my way in the pitch black was tricky so I didn't go far but I was deeply satisfied.

This day was over. Now to sleep in our tent, then wake for breakfast and make the journey back to Amman. But first my camel ride!

(psssst remember to scroll all the way down. Lots of photos)

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2nd November 2017

Looks awesome

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