Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wadi Rum - Bedouin fever!

After Petra, our group had a fun dinner at a place called the red cave bedouin restaurant - to try Beduoin cuisine and to get us in the mood for our night with the Bedouins. I had some chicken stew I sadly forget the name of.. to accompany the meal, most of us tried a lemon-mint tea drink, which I loved. Below from left: Lori, Brett, Pirko, Helen, Annabelle, George, Husam, Kathryn:

A few of us went to the one bar in town (closes at 11!), then fell asleep early after walking miles and miles at Petra. Early in the morning I jumped out of bed because I had a secret plan..

Mocking our ghetto (but perfectly fine!) hotel down the street was the Movenpick. Movenpick is a fancy swiss hotel chain. When Kathy and I had reached our limit in Dar es Salaam, a movenpick buffet came to our rescue. After three or four mornings of hard boiled eggs and pita bread for breakfast and a night of sleeping outside ahead of me, I knew exactly where I was going for breakfast - the Movenpick buffet! After going through a metal detector to get into the hotel, I had not one but an embarrassing TWO omlettes, fresh fruit, two kinds of juice, amazing coffee, yogurt.. The Movenpick isn't really my scene of people - everybody there was 55+ and I would certainly not be seeing them in the desert later. But I love mass amounts of food, and I need a little luxury now and then. Luxury Sara loves the Movenpick and isn't afraid to admit it!


Generally I am not a huge fan of group travel but I chose to do this group because I could do a lot of difficult things in a little time - and there was no way I could go camping in the desert by myself. This was an intrepid "basix" tour, which means really rustic accommodation, so I figured it would weed out the novice travellers. I had done group trips before to the Inca trail and Thai hilltribe villages that I enjoyed very much. And I was correct, this group has been nothing but fun. We range in age from 22 to early 60s - everyone is pretty adventurous. My roommate Helen (from the middle of England) is just great - low maintenance, she puts up with my flashlight-reading and has good sense of humor. No particular nationality dominates this group either. I have my other two americans - outgoing girls from NYC who make me laugh every day - Suvi (of Finnish nationality) and Lori. We have a good mix of introverts and extroverts as well. Roommates Brett from England and Joel from Australia are a little quieter but share their own special sly witty commentary with me daily. Isabel, our french canadian, told me all about the rastafarian lifestyle she had been a part of after living in Jamaica and marrying a musician that played with famous reggae bands. Marie Antionette (French but lives in Quebec now) lived briefly in central America during the 80s (crazy times for central America) and Lori volunteered with orphans in El Salvador. Everybody is well-travelled and interesting. I spent time with Pirko while descending Mt Sinai, who told me about living in Finland and Brussels. I really had no reason to fear group travel with an interesting crowd. We could leave and do our own thing whenever we wanted. I spent a bit of time solo at Petra which if you think about it, is a really good place to be alone and reflect. There are some serious photographers in the group - Kathryn, George and Anabelle - who we called the "camera club". Those jealous of the camera club formed the "chocolate club", and a few unfortunate people made up the "I keep losing things" club, which was the most successful club of all.


After my embarrassing feast at the Movenpick, I tried to go further into town to look for a sheet - because most everyone brought a sleeping bag but me. Who knows what Bedouin sheets and blankets are like? I wanted to wrap myself up in something clean. I walked though town with a stick drawing of a bed and an arrow pointing to a sheet or blanket. People were extremely helpful with ideas, pointing me here and there - but there was no bed, bath & beyond in the town of Wadi Musa. I would have to snuggle up in whatever bug and dirt-infested nasty blanket I could find at the bedouin camp. The one shop that might have had a sheet (according to one man) but did not - had a fantastic grocery store section so I bought snacks from two completely veiled and covered women for the next few days: almonds, dates, dried apricots, turkish delight and pomegranate juice:

We split into three groups and headed off into the desert in jeeps. First it was paved, then we went off-roading in red sand.

Our guide for the Jordan part of the trip, Husam, was in my Jeep. I really liked Husam. He is a palestenian who was living in Kuwait until the Gulf war, then had to uproot and move in those painful times - he chose Italy. Now he lives in Jordan as a tour guide. He was quite professional but "got" our senses of humor so we enjoyed him. Sometimes he would double over laughing at us.

From left - Marie Antoinette, Helen, Lori, me:

My Jordanian headscarf provided some entertainment. Later that night, I wrapped it around my head to keep warm. We took turns posing with it in the desert like Lawrence of Arabia, which happened to be filmed right here. Red & white scarves are Jordanian, Black & white are palestinian, plain white are worn in the Gulf. Actually no woman wears it the way I have it - only men wear it down like that with the black rings on top of the head, but I liked it that way for photo opps.


We stopped to climb a big sand dune, then got to camp at sunset:

A few of the Bedouins made us mint tea, which I have really taken a liking to:

They made us dinner in a pit underground. Everything was cooked together - spiced chicken, potatoes, onions. Served with rice:

Most of us chose to sleep together outside, under the stars:

My bed:

The blanket wasn't exactly clean, but cleaner than I expected and I was so cold that I didn't care. No insects of any kind, except for a giant beetle that kept trying to crawl over. I have a thermometer on my clock, and it got down to 50 degrees that night. There was a little bathroom for us that was much, much better than any bathroom on the Inca Trail.


Most of us sat around a little campfire after dinner with Husam and the bedouins. Bedouins were desert people who now live in little towns. They used to live this way, but still keep some tents out in the desert for tourists. There was an old Bedouin code of conduct that said no matter who you are, if you need shelter, a bedouin would feed and shelter you temporarily, friend or foe. They are really friendly people, who answered all of our prying questions and shared broken english laughs with us. After I returned from Petra the night before, I learned that Kathryn, Lori and Suvi got sidetracked with a couple of bedouins after the sun went down (it goes down at 5PM, so not late...) A few of the guys showed them a tomb or some structure (what was it?), and took them back in a car after dark. They all agreed that it was a slightly risky move, but all was fine and they shared some nervous laughs when they returned. It was just one of those situations where they were talking to them, the sun went down and they just went with the advenure of it all. But nothing to worry about with these Bedouins. Suvi and Lori have a way of getting any story out of a Bedouin - Suvi even interviewed Bdol at Petra for her love-themed podcast. Bdoul has been married 6 times, so he was a fun subject for her. I will try to get her podcast and link it here. When we arrived in Egypt, Isabel and Lori could not put my Jordan lonely planet book down "I know I'm in Egypt but I still want to read about the Bedouins!" Isabel said. We were fans, big fans, of the Bedouins. And with 12 out of 14 of us either single, divorced or travelling solo, the joke about hooking up with one, marrying one and staying in the desert never got old.
We had morning laughs about snoring, giggling and being cold before we left for Egypt. It was a fantastic experience!

1 comment:

Trisha said...

so, did you tell your fellow travelers about sneaking away to the movenpick buffet? The bedouins sound amazing - and sleeping under the stars - incredible!