The Best Intro to a Block Ever
The Amman portion of the Mediterranean Semester is run through an educational program called Amideast and it was at this school where our class met at 9 Monday morning. We took our bags and boarded our bus to Wadi Rum, a vast desert controlled by tribes and famous for its red color and really big rocks. The desert is split up so that different tribes have different areas they are allowed to access. When we got there, we had a 2 hour tour on 4WD trucks of one section and ended at the “Bedouin” camp we were going to spend the night at. We had a quick class because the sun was our clock and it was getting dark. We had a delicious dinner in a big tent and spent the rest of the night stargazing by a campfire and reading our homework by gas lamps. After breakfast and a tour of another section in the morning, we headed to Petra.
I found out later that the men were not considered by some to be real Bedouin but B’dul from Petra. This has been one of a few major talking points in our class, “Imagining Jordan.” We’ve been studying about the history of Jordan and about Jordanian identity. I found the readings on how Bedouins fit into the construct of Jordanian identity most interesting after we left Wadi Rum and spent our first day visiting Petra. The B’dul were originally a Bedouin clan that had been chased into the Petra canyon in the early 1800s and had settled there, living in the tombs that date back to 6th century BCE. Because the B’dul had given up the Bedouin way of life, many don’t consider them to be Bedouin anymore. They were forced out of Petra in 1985 when it was declared a National Heritage site but many still find occupation in the tourism industry, selling camel rides, donkey rides, tea/coffee, and jewelry.
We were hiking down from the farthest point in Petra, the Monastery, and a man invited us for some sage tea. How could we resist such a hospitable offer? So we sat down, swapped some jokes, and then I asked him, “So, are you Bedouin?”
He answered, “No, my family is Bedouin but I am not. But you may think of me as Bedouin. Where are you going next?”
“But why? You must go to your bed. You are tied down.”
I told him, “but I love my bed…”
“We say here that strong as the desert, soft as the sun, move with the wind, forever free.” I believe that is the original Bedouin way of life but I knew he also had a bed to go back to at the end of the day. And there must have been some translation problem because there was nothing soft about that desert sun. We said our goodbyes and hiked out of Petra with sun setting on our backs.
Until next time! Ma’salama (goodbye in Arabic)