Taste generations-old Arabic food recipes and the ecolife in the Arabian Desert with the Bedouin tribe. Journey across the great sand dunes of the Bedouin desert with us, as we discover desert life. We step into a cave house to try Arabic tea and learn about cooking with fire and the Bedouin dish mansaf.
My name is Ghassab Al-Bedoul and I live in Petra, Jordan, close to the Wadi Araba Desert and the border between Jordan and Israel. I’m a Bedouin and I was born in one of the caves in the nature reserve of Petra.
The Wadi Araba Desert is very important and it’s been here for thousands of years, even before Christ. People used to travel in caravans though the streets of the canyon to bring bronze from the mines to Petra. Only people who know the desert very well can live in it.
Bedouins know its secrets and are able to move without the need of a map. They know the desert is not just moving sand with no life and no water. The desert has water, green and trees, and lots of animals like snakes, scorpions, ants, hyenas, and wolfs.
Bedouins always live close to water sources to feed their animals and to grow vegetables like tomatoes, melons, and potatoes.
Nowadays most Bedouin families own a car so they can drive to the big city to buy food, water, and other supplies.
The territory around my cave has lots of green areas. There are lots of juniper trees, oaks, and wild pistachios.
Back in the day, the Bedouins used the fruits of the juniper trees to make tea or as spices. They liked to use many herbs, for everyday use and for medicinal purposes.
Bedouins always cook on fire made with dry wood, especially juniper wood which gives the food a very special aroma.
A very typical Bedouin drink is black tea, which must boil until it has a very dark color. When the tea is ready, they add lots of sugar and aromatic herbs.
The Mansaf is a very important Bedouin dish which used to be prepared with goat meat cooked in goat milk or cheese. Today we normally cook chicken with spices and herbs, goat cheese or yogurt. We place flat bread on a dish, spread boiled white rice on top and place the cooked meat in the middle.
My cave is located 8km from Petra in a nature reserve. There are many herbs and trees that grow in the area, for example aloe vera which is used to cure burns, sage and mint which are commonly used for tea, and oregano is especially common in breakfast dishes.
The cave is more than two thousand years old, carved by hand. My grandfather grew up here just like me.
The ceiling of the cave is black because back in the day people used lots of fire to cook and stay warm. I painted the walls a lighter color so that the room gets more light during the day.
The floor is covered with carpets and cushions, and camel saddles are used as armrest for two people who are sitting next to each other. Bedouins used oil lamps to illuminate the cave at night.
In the morning I go to the village to work but I always come back to the cave, usually before sunset to enjoy the beautiful view.
I have a small cooking area and a place for my books and other possessions.
The stairs that are carved on the side of the cave lead up to the terrace, which was used to control the area and protect it from possible enemies.
In ancient times these mountains were used by the Romans, the Byzantine, and the Nabataeans to make wine and other alcoholic beverages, especially using wild fig trees.
The terrace is the perfect place to relax in the afternoon or stargaze at night.
The building outside the cave was made about 80 years ago with juniper tree for the main structure and stones kept together with straw and sand. People were very careful not to have holes in the walls because they didn’t want scorpions, snakes, or any other poisonous animal to get inside. The roof was made of timber and covered with palm leaves or bamboo.
I created a project called Bedouin Ecolife which gives the opportunity to people to experience the true Bedouin life and culture. For us Bedouins, this is a great sharing experience since it allows us to get to know a different culture, its customs and ideals.
I used to travel a lot so I usually spent the nights at people’s houses instead of hotels because being able to know new people every day is something that has always fascinated me.
When I was younger I didn’t know what it meant to be a Bedouin, to be a nomad, and I was attracted to modern life just like all kids are. But as I grew up and got to know other cultures, I realized that I don’t want to live in “electric cities”, that’s not who I am, and some people might think I’m crazy but I love to be a Bedouin and live here. Silence and peace are not something you can buy.
Nowadays many Bedouins are coming back to this life because, after living the city life, they’ve realized that it’s not for them. I love my land and that’s why the Ecolife is so important to me and to all Bedouins; it’s a lifestyle that allows us to keep this place undisturbed.
Every culture is different and that’s what makes us special.