A Weekend with Bedouins in the Wadi Rum Desert

Three weeks before returning to the U.S. my entire study abroad group including our Jordanian roommates and language partners and I ventured to the Wadi Rum Desert along the Saudi Arabian border of Jordan.    After a long 6 hour plus bus ride to the Wadi Rum Desert we arrived to the gate of the Bedouin Camp.  Bedouins are tribal families who historically live off of the desert as nomads.  This group of people is commonly found in the deserts in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding areas.  We were greeted by a large group of Bedouins whom proceeded to cram all of us into a few “desert” trucks.  For the next forty five minutes we stumbled and bumbled around the desert eventually reaching the camp site.

Image   Wadi Rum Group Pic Two pictures of my study abroad group, including the Jordanian roommates (on the right).

I jumped out onto the sand without any shoes intensifying the cool and smooth sensation on the bottoms of my feet.  The sun was beginning to go down and the sand was hardly cool, but cool enough to ignite the relaxed sensation.  After inspecting our assigned tents, separated by gender a group to respect Jordanian society.  My friends (Bj, Nate, Hothaeyfa, and Rasha) and I found this small mountain/hill near the campsite.  As we reached the top of the hill it finally struck me just how spectacular the Wad Rum Desert is.  The five of us laid next to each other on the top of this big red rock as a cool steady breeze pushed back my hair.  For the next two hours we stared at the beautiful stars and picked out constellations with the echo obscene jokes in Arabic flying about.  When I stared into the never ending abyss of Space, the stars covered the sky like an artist had intentionally speckled the sky on a canvas.  It was difficult for me to take everything in because the deserts beauty was surreal.  A portion of us Americans became well acquainted with Arabic obscenities because learning to joke in a foreign language relaxes the mind and lowers owns worries.  Since I was in such a placid environment I felt obligated to meditate.  I began to meditate for one hour by myself on top of this angular rock that rose above the rest of the hill by seven feet, which amplified the feeling of peace and quiet.  My Jordanian friends did not understand what I was doing or why but I can faintly remember them “poking” fun of me.

Mazen, our program director from Syria, yelled our names and said it was time for dinner.  We got down to the campsite and approached everyone who were intently waiting around a circle looking at a big hole in the ground.  Seven feet under the ground was a bed of hot coals and a metal drum filled with rice, vegetables, chicken, and lamb.  The metal drum was covered in sand creating a sand oven.  This traditional Bedouin dish is called “زرّب” or “Zirrib,” immediately followed by cigarettes and coffee.   You know you are in Jordan when after you eat a meal everyone takes out a cigarette and you find yourself unable to breathe because of the toxic second-hand-smoke.  Note to the weary traveler, do not travel to Jordan if cigarette smoke bothers you.  You may even have to smoke a cigarette with a family at some point in order to show politeness.  After dinner a couple of the Bedouins began playing music.  One played the “Oud” (an instrument that looks similar to a guitar) and a “Tabla” (more or less, a bongo).  They began to play a relaxed Arab song that had a desert-like quality to it.  My friend Abood (his name means “slave” in Arabic but suggests that he is a slave/servant to Allah) and I got up and began to dance.  I loved dancing with Abood because he moved his hips like a woman.  Every time he danced I was amazed, it was like watching an Arab belly dancer.  I attempted to mimic Abood and received encouragement in the form of laughter and enjoyment from the audience.  I hope after graduating from UC Denver, I have the opportunity to return to the Bedouin camp and live with this family for six months.

Bedouin Camp Pic  This is a photo of the dining tent in the Bedouin Camp.

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