Jordan is an incredible country, ask anyone that has been there. I wrote an entire post about why people should visit Jordan here. Even though the ancient cities are marvelous and the landscapes out of this world, it’s the people that truly make the difference. Here’s what I learned about the Bedouin life and hospitality.
The people of the south, originally and even nowadays mostly nomadic, are called Bedouins. They breed sheep and camel and to an external observer, live a very simple life. But there is so much more to their culture than just the animals. Their philosophy is very deep, their sense of family, sharing, tradition, is very strong. With the development of tourism, especially in Wadi Rum, they started to make very decent money, yet their way of life didn’t change by much. Why? Because they appreciate the simple things.
Bedouin camps are a great way to experience the desert life. They are built in the middle of nowhere, so don’t expect to have a reception or a place to charge your phone. The tents are very simple, but comfortable enough, with soft, warm blankets and proper beds. Don’t forget that those are made for tourists. Bedouins have their houses in the neighboring village and if ever they sleep outside it will be “under the stars” – an experience that you can, of course, arrange with your guide.
I really don’t recommend venturing to the desert with your own car, for many reasons. Mostly, there is no light, no reception, and no roads, so if you don’t live there I don’t see how you can survive. Plus, you need to know how to drive in the sand. Lesson number one: never brake! Your wheels will be stuck in the dune. The way the locals drive their big 4×4 on the sand dunes is really impressive and so much fun! I spent a day with Wadi Rum Magic Tours and I can definitely recommend the experience! I felt more like a guest than a tourist.
Food in the desert
As part of the bedouin camp experience you get to witness the old way of bedouin cooking. First they marinate the meat, rice and vegetables. All the plates are being firmly wrapped with aluminum foil ( in the old times it was just covered with rocks). Then, they dig a hole of about 1,5 meters deep in order to put the food in it. Prepared food is being covered with sand and hot rocks from the fireplace and left to cook for two hours. When the time comes to sit for dinner, the meat will be dug up of the hole and displayed for everyone to get served. In the camps you will have tables and cutlery to enjoy the meal, but in real life, the Bedouins would sit on the floor and scoop the meat with a piece of flatbread. It’s delicious!
When in the desert, you will see a lot of camels and sheep. The more fortunate bedouins breed camels for races. A camel is a very expensive animal to own, so imagine owning a whole kennel. This is the only way how bedouins would display their wealth. Because, as I mentioned, they cherish the simple way of life.
Bedouins are extremely hospitable. This, to me, was another level of friendliness. I traveled Wadi Rum desert with Mohammad, the owner of Wadi Rum Magic Tours. He was so nice that he even invited me to his family house. His mother prepared some tea and dates to welcome the unexpected guest and his sister, who spoke a bit of English, taught me how to count in Arab. It was an unforgettable and extremely pleasant experience. Besides that, everywhere I went people would invite me for tea. Just because I was there, I was alone and they wanted to help me. Not only in Wadi Rum, but everywhere in the country.