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The Bedouins of the Wadi Rum
The Wadi Rum is a majestic desert home to Nomadic Bedouins. The Wadi Rum is only one of the many desserts that are home to these proud and ambitious desert dwellers. This beautiful red desert, locally known as The Valley of the Moon, is a magnificent valley cut out of the beautiful colored sandstone just east of Aqaba. It is one of Jordan’s largest and most beautiful desert valleys.
Wadi rums have incredible landscapes, spectacular cliffs, and the deepest orange and red sand dunes. It is home to many nomadic Bedouins. Their traditions are passed from father to son and mother to daughter.
They are proud and ethical people who cherish their way of life. While formal education is not always seen as valuable, they are some of the most skilled and educated people in the desert. Perhaps they do not know who is William Shakespeare, but the girls are some of the most fantastic weavers in the world. The men are gifted storytellers and poets. They could easily write story books. Perhaps one day, these two sides of education will blend.
The Wadi Rum has many well-watered areas and many of the nomadic Bedouins pitch their tents here during the dry seasons. They often find it necessary to move three or four times a year in order to feed and water their flocks. Some of the Bedouins continue to keep the traditional camels and others keep sheep and goats. Many of the tribes are known for their hunting skills. The men will go out with trained dogs into the desert and return with meat.
The black tents that are dotted throughout the desert are woven out of goats’ hair. These are completely woven by the women. These tents are divided into two or three sections. A public area, which is open to all during the day, and a woman’s area. In some of the tribes, the women’s area is divided into a section for the family and a kitchen.
Whether this site is divided or not, it is private and guests do not enter unless invited by the family. As soon as the daughters are old enough to learn to string the loom, they begin learning how to weave. They also weave several different types of cloth. These are used in their homes and for clothes.
While the women are free to join the men and the guests in the public area, they also have an area that they can retreat to in private. If the discussion is of interest to them they will join, if not, there is always something that needs doing.
Coffee And Tea Is Served
The Bedouin Difference
The public area is an area where the conversation is friendly and tea and coffee are served. It does not matter whether you are a stranger or a well-known friend. Everyone who comes near their humble tents is invited to come in out of the hot sun and have tea. You might think it is strange to offer tea in the hot desert, but it really is the best for you on a hot day.
The tea the Bedouins use is sage tea. Sage is known as a cooling herb, and the tea that is served actually drops the body temperature. This has a cooling effect and you actually feel the difference. This is yet another example of the education of these nomads of the desert. This extensive herbal education is passed down from mother to daughter.
While in the public area there are no business transactions made. The conversation does not include any business topic. When the men want to conduct business they leave the tent altogether. If someone comes to talk business, eventually the conversation will get to the business at hand. They will then leave, taking their mattresses and tea with them. If the topic interests the women, they are welcome to follow the men outside and join in the conversation. The inside of the tent is reserved for pleasant and friendly conversation, time with friends and family, and tea.
During certain times of the day, coffee is served. The coffee is prepared at the beginning of the day. The coffee bean is roasted and then crushed with a mortar. The coffee grounds are dropped into hot water and a little of the herb cardamom is added. When a visitor arrives the coffee is heated to a boil and served in a long-spouted coffee pot. Coffee is served in small cups and a visitor is usually offered a second cup.
If you accept a third cup, it means you consider yourself a part of the family. Being part of the family means, you will help them in any way needed. To refuse a third cup of coffee when it is offered is an insult. You are rejecting their offer to be one of them.
The deserts are known for getting cold at night and this outer room is often used into the night. When it cools, the sides of the tents can be unrolled to make the public area warm in the evening. Often a fire is started for warmth, either inside or out. One section may be used for sleeping at night, or they may choose to sleep outside in the open. Sick or injured animals are also brought into the tent.
Nomadic Bedouin Children
The culture of the indigenous Bedouin people is rich. The children are raised without the clutter of things in their life. They spend a good part of their day helping the family unit. That does not mean that they don’t have free time. There is always time for play and they tend to make up their own games.
During the day the children learn how to care for the animals and use the products that come from them. The girls learn to prepare traditional foods. They learn to weave and sew from an early age. This constant learning experience and the time they spend with their family make for happy and well-adjusted children. These children in the picture above are at play or leisure. You can see the big smiles and the contentment on their faces.
Children play simple games and also learn their different roles through play. A young girl that is too young to weave may pretend she is weaving. A young boy may gather all the children and tell a story or pretend to barter for their needs with a neighbor. Role modeling is important for these children. In this, they also learn and desire the Bedouin life. With this nomadic life, they are free. It is just them, their animals, and each other. It is a very free and peaceful lifestyle. It is also a life where you must be content with a little.
A child quickly learns that his needs will be met, but he will not spend all day wanting what he does not even know exists. There is no clutter in the Bedouin child’s life. These times of play will prepare the child for the challenges of the Nomadic Adult Bedouin life.
T.E. Lawrence once wrote that nomadism was “the most deeply biting of all social disciplines.”.a life too hard for all but the strongest and most determined.” The children of today will rise to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Life in the desert will require them to be strong and determined.
The Cowboys Of The Desert
The traditional cowboys of the Jordan desert are filled with fortitude. They have learned to endure the harshest conditions of this unforgiving desert. They have learned to meet the challenges and prosper and thrive. They are busy from sunrise to sunset. They are busy being Bedouins.
The Bedouin cowboys ride fast across the desert. It seems that they come from nowhere. When they ride up and dismount they are friendly and will try to engage with you in conversation. They are polite and sociable. When their break is over, they are gone. You will see them leave just as fast as you saw them arrive. Life in the Jordanian Desert is busy. The desert is harsh and only the tough will succeed.
Timeless Splendor In The Desert
The desert is timeless! You can see forever. The different colors of the sandstone have created a majestic environmental landscape. This timeless splendor is nature’s artwork. The magnificent red desert seems to meet the deep blue sky seamlessly. Much like a painter’s canvas, it is perfect. It is almost like perpetual autumn. As far as the eye can see are tones of red, orange, and brown.
The harshness of this amazing desert awaits the visitor. Your Bedouin guide will quickly teach you how to wrap your scarf over your hat and face if you have never done so. The Bedouins are sensible people and take your comfort and safety very seriously. Even before you know you need a break from the sun, you will be stopping for tea. If you have overheated in any way, the tea will cool the body.
Most desert tours give you the opportunity to walk on the steps of Lawrence of Arabia. You most likely will be able to climb the rocks and look out over this enormous landscape. Try to imagine what it is like to spend your days in this quiet desert, where the sand blows for miles non-stop. There is nothing to stop the wind! If you are not prepared for the possible harshness, the blowing red sand is relentless and punishing. For the well-prepared adventurer, it is just another side to the raw beauty of this impressive and spectacular desert.
Wadi Rum is overflowing with caves and tall deep red cliffs. If you take time to wander the desert and climb the cliffs and rocks, you may encounter petroglyphs etched deep into the caves and overhangs. These petroglyphs tell a story of a way of life that dates back to Talmudic times. They are stories in pictures that when pieced together allow us to understand the amazing history of Wadi Rum.
Some of these unique rock formations and pillars have been given names. The most famous of them all is: “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.” The raw and wild beauty of the Wadi Rum Desert is almost indescribable. It is a magnificence without words. Only the eye can begin to behold this timeless splendor.
The Setting Of The Sun
The mountains that you have seen most of the day, take on special significance as the sun prepares to lower in the sky. As the evening approaches and the day comes to a close, the tones of the mountains begin to change colors. If you are returning to one of the nearby towns for the night, you will most likely do so as the sun lowers in the sky. A beautiful sunset is always the perfect end to a perfect day.
Those who are spending the night in the desert will return to the humble camps that will be their desert home for the night. What a privilege it is to be the guests of the desert dwellers for the night. You will watch the sunset and the moon rise. The moon looms so large in the desert skies.
You will join your hosts for a dinner that is usually lamb that has been slowly roasted in the ground all day. It is tender, juicy, and tasty. You will watch as your hostess prepares bread that is a kin to pita bread but is even more delicious. She will have prepared it on the bottom of a flat pan. The preparation of this flatbread is astonishing as she works with the dough. This must be one of the best bread in the region.
After the wonderful dinner, you will be held captive by the men. It is now their time to shine, as they tell the stories that they know so well. The Bedouin men are some of the most gifted storytellers of all time. You will be spellbound into the night, as they share story after story. Then it will be time to retire to your tent in the most amazing desert on earth, the Wadi Rum.
If you are looking for adventure, then look no further than Jordan. What a perfect time to explore the timeless deserts and the ancient ruins of this peaceful and amazing country.
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