Just as tourists are fascinated by the ancient Nabatean lost city, Petra, many are equally enchanted by its inhabitants – the Bedouins. The Bedouin tribes claimed to be the direct descendants of the Nabateans and that they had inherited Petra from their ancestors. Therefore it is presumed that the tribes have had been living in this area for over a hundred years or more.
The Bedouins were once nomads, earning their livelihood from breeding goats, sheep and horses, and making and selling yogurt and cheese. After some time, they changed their nomadic habits for a more stable existence by living in caves in Petra. However, when UNESCO awarded Petra with world heritage status in 1985, the Jordanian government moved the tribe from the caves to a nearby village with proper built houses and amenities. Their sources of income also changed from breeding animals and selling produce, to tourism.
The camel, mule or horse rides offered in Petra are managed by Bedouins. So are the cafes and side tents set up along the walking trails selling trinkets. Non-Bedouins are not allowed to set up businesses in Petra, hence incomes are earned within the community only which is a good thing. However, with the decline in tourism in Jordan due to instability in the Middle East region, the Bedouins’ livelihood is impacted. As a result, some of them have returned to the old ways – cave dwellings and animal breeding. I guess this helps to keep the tradition and culture alive.
The Bedouins are known for their hospitality and quite charming in their own way. I’ll be very candid here – many foreign women seemed to be drawn towards the young Bedouin men especially with their Jack Sparrow-looks. And I believe, they are very much aware of their appeal, hence they go all out to be quite endearing to solo female travellers. My advice to the ladies: it’s your choice to accept an offer to have tea with a Bedouin or to have him accompany you on your walking trails, as long as you feel comfortable. If you don’t feel comfortable and wish to be left alone, just politely decline and no offence will be taken.
The Bedouin kids are simply adorable 🙂 They go to school in the morning and come back to Petra in the afternoon to manage the animal rides or to sell postcards to tourists. They have also picked up English phrases, and accents as well! It’s hilarious to hear the kids speaking phrases such as “Would you like to buy some postcards?” or “Would like you to go on a donkey ride?” in a posh English accent or an American drawl!
Here are photos of Bedouins in Petra, and do check out the video below:
This was part of my 5-day private tour of Petra & Wadi Rum which was generously discounted by Jordan Select Tours. Opinions expressed in this post, if any, as always, are my own.
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