It is common to encounter some form of Bedouin hospitality in Jordan. The Bedouin, (“Bedu” in Arabic, meaning “desert dwellers”) are nomadic people who live in the desert. They mainly live in the Arabian and Syrian deserts, the Sinai in Egypt and the Sahara desert. In total world-wide, there are about 4 million Bedouin. There are Bedouin living in Israel and in Jordan.
History of the Bedouin
Many Jordanian people are descendants from ancient Bedouin tribes. While many of today’s Bedouin who live as nomads care for animals such as sheep, goats and camels, they also open their tents to host travelers who are interested in learning about their culture and lifestyle.
When wearing traditional clothing, the Bedouin can be easily identified. Men wear a long-sleeved piece of clothing (usually white) that drapes down past their knees. They wear a draped head cover (usually red and white), a “koufeyah”, and have a black cord holding the head cover in place.
Women wear a long black dress called a “madraga”. They must cover their heads and do so with a band, a “usaba”, which is wrapped around their head and tied in the back.
While historically, the Bedouin moved from place to place in the desert, often with very few material items, as a group, they lived by a belief that no traveler should be turned away.
One item that each family had, was a tent. Within it, they could provide shelter from the harsh desert, as well as food to the weary traveler.
Visiting Bedouin Campsites
In the Wadi Rum area, there are six Bedouin tribes that live in villages. For those that choose to stay at a Bedouin campsite during their visit to Wadi Rum, the experience is unforgettable. For most tours, visitors will stay in a campsite that looks like this.
The Bedouin show you their hospitality through your accommodations, but also through your food and drink. Coffee drinking is a key element in the social life of the Bedouin. When a guest arrives, he or she is usually offered three cups: The Cup of the Guest (for the guest’s arrival), The Cup of the Sword (for the bravery of the Bedouin men), and The Mood Cup (for a good mood). Bedouin food is very simple, but satisfying. Most Bedouin meals include yogurt, cheese, rice, ghee (butter) and bread.