Petra has played host to many different cultures over the years, but it’s been home to the nomadic Bedul Bedouin for countless centuries. Under their watchful eyes and love of the land, Petra has survived.
During the summer they lived in camel-hair tents in the valley, then moved into the caves for protection in the harsh winter months. However, Petra’s recent popularity has brought some changes. Government programs have relocated most of the Bedul out of the caves to new, offsite housing.
But the Bedul are still what makes Petra tick. And everyone has a job – from petulant little girls trying to sell you pretty rocks to the ancient men hawking “antique” coins.
If ever there was a definition of “charm” … the handsome tour guides keep the tourists’ rapt attention.
The camel jockeys are quite distinctive with their long wool robes and rakish “Mad Max” looks. They’re usually running a string of 2 or 3 camels. This guy greeted us with, “Come ride my camel. She’s the Ferrari of the desert!”
These two girls are supposed to be selling jewelry to weary pilgrims leaving the Siq, but they found a sunny niche, out of the wind, and they’re playing jacks. Jacks! When was the last time you saw that?
But this little boy cinched it for me. He’s a donkey wrangler, managing three donkeys, helping his paying clients stay upright, all the while keeping up the sales banter with everyone he passes. “Need a donkey? It’s air conditioned!”
So when he clip-clopped up next to us and launched into his spiel, I greeted him in Arabic and added some funny quip about his donkey. His jaw dropped. “You speak Arabic?”
“Shwaya,” (a little) I replied.
He turned to James and exclaimed, “You”re a lucky man!”
I love this kid!