In Pictures: The Bedouins of Petra

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:

Camel, mule and horse handlers gather at the Treasury
Camel, mule and horse handlers gather at the Treasury

petra bedouin boy at treasury

Bedouin Jack Sparrow lookalike ;-)
Bedouin Jack Sparrow lookalike 😉

petra bedouins

petra bedouin boys on mules


petra bedouin boys camels

Meet Suleiman and his mule, Whisky ;-)
Meet Suleiman and his mule, Whisky 😉
Have some tea!
Have some tea!

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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in pictures the bedouins of petra katpegimana

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  1. I’m not sure which one we find more amusing: The idea of Bedouin kids speaking with an American drawl, or the Pringles chips in the market. Oh my…we’re so pervasive! The landscape is beautiful! It reminds me of the American southwest, so maybe the chips and accents are apropos. 😉 Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

    1. Thanks Elaine, glad that you love the photos 🙂 Yeah about these young Bedouin men – they are cheeky and witty but for whatever reason, they assume that all women would fall on their feet just because they are charming. There are stories about love scams – so I would advise you to listen to their stories with a pinch of salt and move on.

  2. I didn’t know that only Bedouins were allowed to set up businesses in Petra. That’s rather protectionist, but fine with me – I’m all for supporting local businesses. I’ll never forget the friendly Bedouin guy whose horse I rode in Petra! I was with my boyfriend and he asked if he and his horse could attend our wedding 😀 I wish I could have invited them! It’s sad to hear that downturn in tourism has impacted them so much.

    1. It might sound protectionist but for a good reason. It provides employment and revenue opportunities for the Bedouins who tend not to move out from Petra and Wadi Rum to the bigger cities in Jordan to seek jobs. Therefore this is the only way for them to earn income. The Bedouins are jokers hahah imagine him and his horse riding into your wedding! 🙂

    1. I agree, the children seem very happy though their lives are very different. Sometimes I find that we complicate our lives too much in this world – if only we could scale back on our excesses, then perhaps we could be happier 🙂

  3. Love it Kat. A friend of mine was in Petra last year and came back with stories of the Bedouin Jack Sparrow look alikes. She thinks they really went all out to build up these personas. Regardless they certainly add a lot of colour to a visit to Petra. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    1. Yeah, I think so too – am not surprised that they went all out to build up these personas because Petra is quite touristy now and the Bedouins need the tourist dollars to make a living, aside from breeding animals and making yogurt/cheese. Regardless, Petra is an interesting place to visit and explore 🙂

  4. What great photos, Kat! I do find the Bedouin fascinating so it’s interesting to read more about them. Your Jordan trip is one I’d love to do so I’m so enjoying reading them on #FarawayFiles

    1. Many thanks Clare..I find the Bedouins fascinating too but don’t think I would follow and live with them in the caves, like some of the foreign women 😉

  5. Before I read your post I remembered my visit to Petra in 1994 – and my amazement at how many British women were living there in the caves with the locals – sounds like nothing has changed! #Farawayfiles

    1. Oh that was like 20 years ago…and I believe there are more foreign women living in the caves with the locals now ever since a book was published – it’s the story of a woman from New Zealand who fell in love with a Bedouin, married him and lived with the community in the caves for many years until he died.

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