Thank you Rebecca N. for sharing.
Our bus arrived to the tents around 6;30 p.m. and it was still blazing hot outside. We jumped off the bus, only backpacks in hand, and headed to our tent. Inside we found mats, about 3 inches thick covering the floor and colorful glass lights hanging from the roof. Most everyone was incredibly surprised to find the tent was a mostly permanent structure with electricity; yet, as I stood in my mat’s little corner and looked around, I saw people turning their phones off and storing them in their backpacks as the usual “what’s the wifi” clamor faded.
We ran outside and a game of ultimate Frisbee began as well as plenty of exploring of the mountain-surrounded camp grounds. Soon we were gathered together and headed to the camel riding area where we piled two at a time on to our camels and rode them through the desert as the sun set. Between the laughing, smiling, gazing at the scenery, and the occasional scream, you could see just how happy everyone was and how well everyone understood the uniqueness of this experience.
We all got our fair share of photos and headed to the dining tent where we were served a large Bedouin feast including kebab, chicken, couscous, beans, potatoes and wrapped up in Laffa, a thin tortilla-like bread. We sat around the table top on our cushions and ate with our hands. I was personally surprised by the service and how friendly the staff was to us. Then, one of the local men spoke to us about the Bedouin culture, history, and responsibility. They are the original people of the region and are therefore the source of religion, sports, and trade – as he explained to us. We were served coffee and tea as regulated by cultural tradition and learned he has three wives and 23 children. We were all intrigued by the cultural differences but I was especially intrigued by the roots these people have in the region and how they’ve managed to maintain them while will welcoming modern tourists with open arms. They say all guests are treated with the utmost respect and hospitality their first three days, on day three, they are part of the family and therefore must begin working – a fair trade off considering all room and board is complimentary.
To conclude our evening, a large bonfire was started and we gathered around to sing and braid hair. Slowly people trickled back into the tent to sleep as the lights inside rimmed the darkness. Some people, including me, did not think they had had enough time to explore the grounds or soak in the culture so they stayed up and wandered and talked. Considering the warm, noisy, and spider-filled conditions, even more stayed up just trying to find comfort. But, at the end of the day, we did fall asleep to the hum of others’ snores and camels’ mews.
Although it is difficult for me to articulate the exact environment and experiences we shared, I can say I truly had one of the greatest and most fulfilling experiences of my life. Among the Bedouin people and other birthright groups, I felt safe, welcomed, and at home.