Category Archives: Egyptian History

Bedouins

In many of our tours (especially our Gem tours), our groups meet Bedouins. In almost all of our groups we receive questions about the Bedouins, their men, women and children and of course their way of living. The Bedouin history is long and it has many variations, its culture is rapidly changing and the Bedouins in Israel are a special case. For those reasons, I decided to publish this article about Bedouins in general.


Bedouins are Arabs and desert nomads who hail from and continue to live primarily in the Arabian peninsula and the Middle East and North Africa. They the have traditionally lived in the arid steppe regions along the margins of rain-fed cultivation. They often occupy areas that receive less than 5 centimeters of rain a year, sometimes relying on pastures nourished by morning dew rather than rain to provide water for their animals.

Bedouins regard themselves as true Arabs and the “heirs of glory.” They are found mostly in Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and Egypt, but also in Israel. Bedouins are objects of romance and associated with the idea of freedom for many Arabs. But there life is not easy. Wilfred Thesinger described the Bedouin’s life as “hard and merciless…always hungry and usually thirsty.” And that’s true for the Bedouins of the old times.

Bedouin means “desert people.” The term Bedouin is an anglicization of the Arabic word bedu . It has traditionally been used to differentiate between nomads who made a living by raising livestock (the Bedouins) and those who worked on farms or lived in towns. There is some debate as to whether non-Arab- speaking nomads who live in the Middle East are Bedouins. These groups generally prefer names like the Fedaan tribe or the Rashaayda Arabs to Bedouins.
Source: Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger depicts Bedouin culture

Nomads

Desert life of a Bedouin
Desert life of a Bedouin

Some desert people are nomads who move from place to place, tending flocks of goats, sheep and camels. Nomads tend to live in places in which the land is too dry to farm crops and travel to find forage for their animals. Nomads tend to live on the fringes of deserts, where they can find enough fodder for their animals. They pasture their flocks where they can find plants. They eat dates and milk, yoghurt, meat and cheese from animals and trade wool, hides for other goods such as tea and other foods they might want. Some work as smugglers. In lowland areas camel breeding has traditionally been the primary economic activity. In the highland areas, raising sheep and goats is the dominant activity.

Although nomads have traditionally made up smaller numbers than peasants their influence on culture has gone far beyond their numbers. It can be argued that Arab culture as well as Turkish culture (the Turks descend from Mongol-like horsemen) is one based in nomadism.

Nomads are far from a homogeneous group. In southeastern Turkey, for example, there are Turkish, Kurdish and Arab nomadic groups. In southwestern Iran, the Khamseh Confederacy includes Persian, Arabic and Turkish tribes. In Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, Berber and Arab tribes intermix.

There are few nomads anymore. By the end of the 20th century they made up less than 1 percent than of the populations of the nations where they lived. Their numbers have declined steadily in the 20th century. In 1900, nomads made up 35 to 40 percent of the population Iraq. By 1970 they made up only 2.8 percent. In 1900 in Saudi Arabia, nomads made up 40 percent of the population. By 1970 they made up only 11 percent. In 1900 in Libya nomads made up 25 percent of the population. By 1970 they made up only 3.5 percent. Their demise was accelerated by the creation of nation states in the 1950s and the oil wealth.

Bedouin History

Bedouin sheikh
Bedouin sheikh

There were already Bedouins for 8000 years! Agricultural and pastoral people have inhabited the southern edge of the arid Syrian steppe since 6000 B.C. By about 850 B.C. a people known as the “A’raab”—ancestors of current Arabs— had established a network of oasis settlements and pastoralist camps. They were one of many stock-breeding societies that lived in the region during that period and were distinguished from their Assyrian neighbors to the north by their Arabic language and the use of domesticated camels for trade and warfare.

Bedouins were once the primary inhabitants of the Holy Land. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were probably Bedouins, and for sure, nomads. Many elements of Bedouin culture have not changed much since Biblical times.

By the first century B.C., Bedouin moved westward into Jordan and the Sinai Peninsula and southwestward along the coast of the Red Sea. In the 7th century Bedouin were among the first converts to Islam. Mohammed was not a Bedouin. He was a towns person from a family of traders. During the Muslim conquests thousands of Muslims—many of them Bedouins—left the Arabian peninsula and settled in newly conquered land nearby and later spread across of much of the Middle East and North Africa.

Bedouin shepherd in the Jordan valley
Bedouin shepherd in the Jordan valley

Bedouins have traditionally raised livestock for sedentary (no nomads, settled) Arabs. They raised camels, horses, and donkeys as beasts of burden, and sheep and goats for food, clothing and manure. They acquired the camel around 1,100 B.C. Bedouins carried out caravan trade with camels between Arabia and the large city states of Syria. Damascus depended on Bedouins to guide its merchant caravans through the desert.

As traders Bedouins helped moved goods between villages and towns by providing raw materials to the towns and manufactured good to the villages. Their relations with settled people was based on reciprocality and was conducted according to carefully defined rules.

After the Mongol conquests, the irrigations systems in the Middle East were seriously damaged. Settled Arabs became more reliant on livestock and forged closer ties with Bedouins, and in some cases joined their tribes.

Bedouins in the Modern World

The number of true nomadic Bedouins is shrinking. Many are now settled, by their own free will or forced. Most Bedouins no longer rely on animals. Centralized authority, borders and the monetary system have undermined their traditional way of life. Roads have decreased their isolation and increased contacts with outsiders. Radios and television have brought new ideas and exposure to the outside world. The oil industry has changed the lives of many Bedouins, who have to deal with oil fields, trucks and other vehicles and machines in areas that were once was only desert. Bedouins still identify themselves as Bedouins if the maintain ties with their nomadic kin and retain the language and other cultural markers that identify them as Bedouins.

A Bedouin settlement in the Negev
A Bedouin settlement in the Negev

In Israel, the authorities want to have their Bedouins settled and that’s often a problem. The view of the authorities are not compatible with those of the Bedouin tribes here in Israel and causes often tensions and conflicts.

Bedouins who have adapted to the modern world retain their tribal loyalties and code of honor. Today, many Bedouins in Oman commute between their desert camps and their jobs in the oil fields in pick-up trucks and SUVs; water is brought to their camps in trucks; and children go to boarding school. While Bedouins continued to move their herds of camels and goats several times a year to new pastures they no longer depend on their animals for survival.

Bedouins in the desert watch television powered by batteries or car batteries. Affluent ones have car phones and satellite television, and goatherds who use ATM machines. One Bedouin in Oman told National Geographic, “Before, life was very difficult. We didn’t have enough food. We ate only animals we caught in the desert. We had no water. We drank only camel’s or goat’s milk. Now we have cars, water, rice—we have everything!”

But with the modern society creeping in the deserts, so also come the negative side of the society, drugs and crime. Many Bedouin tribes and families are torn apart because of the drugs. Also an issue is the education of Bedouin children, which doesn’t enable them to find good work, or work at all!

Bedouin Language and Religion

Like other Arabs, Bedouins speak different dialects of Arabic. A man’s name generally consists of a personal first name, the father’s name and at least the agnatic grandfather’s name (seniority is a patrilineal principle of inheritance where the order of succession to the throne prefers the monarch’s younger brother over the monarch’s own son). Women keep their father’s family name even after marriage.

Most Bedouins are Sunni Muslims and generally observe Muslim holidays and traditional Muslim customs. Arrangements are usually made with religious specialists in sedentary communities to provide religious services and education for Bedouin communities. Sufism (mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God) is strong among some Bedouin communities in the southern Sinai and Libya (and even in Israel). A few Bedouin groups in Jordan have remained Christian since early Islamic times.

Many Bedouins believe in malevolent spirits called jinn and evil ogresses and monsters called ahl al-ard (“people of the earth”), who sometimes target people traveling alone in the desert. In our tours, when the Bedouin is telling stories, it’s often about jinn and evil ogresses, who are hunting for lonely travelers in the night.

Following a custom also practiced by Tibetans, Bedouins mark sacred trees and sites with small strips of prayer cloths.

The “envious eye or evil eye” is taken very seriously by Bedouins. It is believed to target children, who don’t wear amulets for protection. The envious eye is a curse believed to be cast by a malevolent glare, usually given to a person when they are unaware. Bedouins believe that receiving the evil eye will cause misfortune or injury. Talismans created to protect against the evil eye are also frequently called “evil eyes“.

Bedouins generally follow Muslim practices in regard to funerals and burials. Graves tend to be unmarked. Sometimes an effort is made to bury family members in one place but this often can not be realized within the 24 hour time of Muslim law.

Bedouin Holidays and a Feast for a King

Bedouins in the Lebanon-Syrian area have traditionally gathered in the Bekaa Valley in the spring, arriving with huge flocks of Awassi sheep.

A mansaf is a traditional Muslim feast often held to mark the end morning period of a prominent person. A great tent is opened and spread with carpets. Pure white camels are marched within an ocher circle and two dots are marked for a sacrifice.

At large feasts 250 sheep might be slaughtered. Meat, rice, spices and bread are placed in a large bowl that is so large it sometimes takes two or more men to carry. Guests sit around on carpets and eat communally out of the bowl. At the end of the meal coffee is served from a shiny, brass coffee pot. The host traditionally does not eat until all of his guests are finished.

Describing a feast in honor of Jordan’s King Hussein, National Geographic reporter Luis Marden wrote: “Opposite the tents and facing them, 200 camelmen, resplendent in bright robes and saddle hangings, awaited the arrival of the king, and far down the track stood two bands of horsemen with rifles to the ready. As the royal car drew abreast, horsemen galloped wildly on each side of the King’s car, firing “joy shots” into the air; the camels wheeled behind the horsemen and shouts rose from 4,000 throats.”

“Behind the main line of tents, from the women’s quarters, sounded the ululation of the zaghruut , the peculiar cry with which Arab women greet their leaders or send their men off to war. The chiefs rose t greet His Majesty at the entrance to the big tent, and the instant the King set foot to the ground, men with right armed bared to the elbow plunged curved daggers into jugulars of the white camels.”

“Rival bands of horsemen staged mock fights, charging across the sand and firing volleys of shots with their carbines and pistols. Finally the mansaf was served on great dishes, each bearing a roasted whole sheep nestled in a mound of rice and pine nuts, all drenched in rich white sauce made of yoghurt and butter.

Bedouin Appearance, Customs and Character

Bedouins tend to be small and thin. One reason for this is that food is scarce in the desert. Being thin helps get rid of body heat. Layers of fat keep heat in the body and are more useful in cold weather.

Only Bedouin men tend to camels

Describing a Bedouin, Don Belt, wrote in National Geographic, he was “short, slim, dark—and had face as fierce as a shrike, with a pointed beak and sharp little beard thrust forward like a dagger.” The stereotypical Bedouin male has a masculine, hawk noses, olive skin, and eyes wrinkled by years of squinting in the sun. Some men use a cosmetic made from black antimony to protect their eyes from the sun’s glare.

Bedouin have a love of freedom and not being tied down. Explaining the appeal of the nomadic life, one Bedouin nomad told National Geographic: “You are free. You have a relationship only with your animals. The only relationship more important is with Allah.” Calmness and patience are valued traits in the desert. Bedouin submission to fate has been a cornerstone of the Muslim faith. The Bedouin term “green hearted” describes the act of being lighthearted and unconcerned about mundane matters and preferring adventure and danger.

Inside a Bedouin tent
Inside a Bedouin tent

Bedouins have complex customs of revenge, loyalty and hospitality. They are famous for their hospitality. There are stories of Bedouins slaughtering their best camel for a guest only to find out that guest was willing to buy the camel at any price. National Geographic photographer Reza said, “I have been shooting pictures for 35 years and have traveled in 107 different countries, but nowhere have I enjoyed greater warmth that I experience among the Bedouin. Exhausted after a long day driving…you’d approach a tent, and suddenly someone would appear with a coffee and a beautiful carpet to sit on—yet they’d never ask you who you were or where you’re from. I sometimes wonder if the rest of us have forgotten such values.”

Inside a Bedouin tent
Inside a Bedouin tent

Bedouins are expected boil their last rice and kill their last sheep for feed a stranger. Whenever an animal is slaughtered for a guest it is ritually sacrificed in accordance with Islamic law. It is customary in some Bedouin tribes for a host to smear blood from a slaughtered animal onto of the mounth of his guest in a show of hospitality.

Hospitality is regarded as an honor and a scared duty. Visitors who happen by are usually invited to sit and share a cup of thick, gritty coffee. Guest are ritually absorbed into the household by the host. If a conflict occurs the host is expected to defend the guest as if he were a member of his family. One Bedouin told National Geographic, “Even if my enemy appears at this tent, I am bound to feast him and protect him with my life.”

Bedouin sometimes touch noses as a greeting. Bedouin men sometimes express their friendship to another man by embracing him and giving him a big wet kiss on the lips.”

Bedouin Marriage, Weddings and Dating

Traditional Bedouin weddings
Traditional Bedouin weddings

Traditionally, marriages have been between the closest relatives permitted by Muslim law. Cousin marriages are common, ideally between a man and his father’s brother’s daughter. Traditionally, a father’s brother’s son has first dibs on his female cousin, who has the right of refusal but needs permission of that son to marry anyone else. Although marriages to first cousins are desired, most marriages are between second and third cousins.

Traditional Bedouin wedding procession
Traditional Bedouin wedding procession

Marriages outside the extended family have traditionally been rare, unless a tribal alliances was established; and women were expected to be virgins when they were married. In a marriage it is important for the families to be of the same status. Having lots of children is considered a duty because the more members a tribe has the stronger it is. Polygamy is allowed but only rarely practiced. Generally, only older, wealth men with enough money to support multiple household can afford it.

Bedouin wedding, women's apartment in Bedouin tent
Bedouin wedding, women’s apartment in Bedouin tent

Traditionally, women family members have acted as matchmakers; old brothers worked out the bride price paid by the groom’s family and the details of the marriage contract; the bride and groom had to offer their consent; and escape routes had be worked out to save face if one of either the bride or groom backs out. If the marriage is between cousins the brideprice has traditionally been relatively small.

At weddings, Bedouins prepare a feast of goat meat and rice and other foods. The featured dish is often a cooked camel, stuffed with a whole roasted sheep, which in turn is stuffed with a chicken stuffed with fish filled with eggs.

In a traditional Bedouin wedding a camel is sacrificed and a marital tent is set up to signify that a couple can live with each other. At sunset the bride is escorted by female relatives of the groom. After the groom arrives the relatives depart. No presents are exchanged. The following morning the couple is congratulated. The bride then joins the groom’s family in their tents while the grooms does various chores to earn enough money to pay for the bride price.

Among some tribes boys and girls are encouraged o explore their romantic feeling for one another at an early age, even 12. When other family members are working they can be alone in a tent. When it is cold the can hang out by a campfire. If a couple decides they want to marry the young man tells a friend and the friend asked the girl’s father for permission to marry. If approval is given, a tribal elder negotiated the bride price.

Divorce is fairly common and can be initiated by the man or women according to Muslim traditions. When it occurs the woman generally returns to live her parents

Bedouin Families and Children

Bedouin Women, Jerusalem, ca 1880
Bedouin Women, Jerusalem, ca 1880

The three-generation extended household is regarded as the ideal domestic unit and generally consists of nine to eleven members. Although members may sleep in different tents they generally share their meals together. Husband and wife teams tend to remain in larger groups until they have enough offspring to form a group of their own. Some households are created by the unions of brothers or patrilineal cousins.

Bedouin dancer
Bedouin dancer

Bedouins are not respected unless the get married and have children. There are distinct terms for relatives on the mother’s side and relatives on the father’s side. The smallest household unit is generally named after the senior male resident. An extended family household ceases to exist when the elderly husband or wife dies. When a mother is divorced, widowed or remarried her older sons form their own households. Inheritance is divided in accordance with Muslim law. The division of livestock is sometimes complicated by the fact that women are not allowed to own larger animals.

Bedouin children of the tribe
Bedouin children of the tribe

Some Bedouins families are quite large. “We have many children,” a Bedouin told journalist Harvey Ardent, “I myself have 17 by my two wives. What else can you do in the desert?”

Bedouin children walk to school in the Negev desert
Bedouin children walk to school in the Negev desert

Children and infants are raised by the extended family. Siblings, grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins often are as much engaged in rearing children as the parents. Elaborate ceremonies are held for the naming of newborn children. Children are purified and ritually initiated into the family through rites of seclusion and purification performed by the mother between seven and 40 days after the birth. At age 6 or 7 children are held responsible for taking care of simple household duties and soon after that they are regarded as full working members of the group. Adolescence generally does not get much attention. From late childhood onward Bedouins are treated as working members of the group.

Bedouin Men and Women

Bedouin dancers
Bedouin dancers

Men in Bedouin societies are admired if they have a gentle way with camels and an eye for pretty women. Bedouin men have traditionally been taught to secretive about their plans and movements especially where their wives are concerned,

Traditional division of labor has been largely defined by which animals are raised, with men typically caring for the large animals, particularly camels, and women being responsible for the smaller animals such as goats and sheep. Women are often prohibited from having close contact with camels and other large animals. They and older girls spend much of their time herding, feeding and milking When only sheep and goats are kept, men tend to do the herding and women do the feeding and milking.

Bedouin husband and wife from tribal intermarriage
Bedouin husband and wife from tribal intermarriage

Bedouin women manage the household and tent and general handle market chores and the buying and selling of goats while only men are allowed to buy and sell camels. Women often spend their days doing chores while the mean relax and drink coffee. Bedouin girls take care of the animals while their brothers go to school.

A woman’s value used to be equated with her worth in camels. A beautiful fair-skinned wife was said to be worth around 50 camels. Girls are sometimes circumcised. Many Bedouin are veiled but in many respects they enjoy more freedoms than urban Arab women.

Bedouin women have traditionally ground wheat into flour on a circular stone called a quern. They have traditionally worked wool into yarn on hand spindles with big pill of coarse wool by their side. Among the items they make are hand-knit camel-udder covers to prevent baby camels from nursing whenever they feel like it.

Bedouin Society

Bedouins in 1893
Bedouins in 1893

As is true with all Arabs, Bedouins live in patrilineal societies. Most are members of large patrilineal descent groups, which are linked by agnation to larger lineage groups, tribes and even confederations of tribes. “Bedouins frequently name more than five generations of patrilineal ancestors and conceptualize relations among descent groups in terms of a segmentary genealogical model, with each group nested in a larger patrilineal group. Within this structure is a framework for forging marriage alliances, and settling disputes and administering justice.

Bedouin Women, Jerusalem, ca 1880
Bedouin Women, Jerusalem, ca 1880

Bedouins are fiercely loyal to clan and tribe and their society is organized around a series of real and fictional kin groups. The smallest household units are called bayt (plural buyuut). They in turn are organized into groups called fakhadhs , which in turn are united into tribes. Large tribes are sometimes divided into subtribes. The leaders of buyuut and fakhadhs are often organized into a Council of Elders, often directed by tribal leader or sheik.

Bedouin sheikh, 1934
Bedouin sheikh, 1934

Bedouins have traditionally been organized into “nations,” or tribal groups of families united by common ancestor and shared territorial claims. These nations are led by leaders selected according to a universal selection process and operating in an environment that was constantly changing ecologically and politically. Only in the 20th century has their system been undermined by more powerful authoritarianism namely national governments.

Bedouin sheikh
Bedouin sheikh

Social control is exercised through honor and shame which not only defines an individual but also defines his family and even clan. Honor is inherited and has to asserted from time to time to remain relevant. The honor of a man is defined by his individual behavior and those of his male kin. Female honor is something that male relatives are responsible for upholding. It is often defined in terms of chastity and is regarded as something that can not be regained after it has been lost. It is considered a serious, shameful matter if female honor is taken or somehow compromised. Serious breaches of honor can result in execution of expulsion from the tribe.

Most Bedouins belong to small tribes that traditionally lived together in tent camps in the desert. The Al Sawaada tribe, a typical tribe, had 400 members. The largest tribes have 3,000 tents and 75,000 camels. Large tribes are hardly ever together. There simply is not food in a given place in the desert to support them all. Groups that move through the desert usually have 20 to 70 members.

Each Bedouin tribe member wears slightly clothes to indicate locality, social position and marital status, with these things usually being indicated by embroidery on their cloak, headdresses, jewelry and hairstyle worn on special occasions.

Different tribes have different reputations. The Beni Skar Bedouins have a reputation for being particularly fierce. The Duru, the Harasi, the Yal Wahiba are tough Bedouin tribes that live in southern Oman. Residing near their gravel flats of the Empty Quarter, they survive by finding meager feed for their camels and wander from one bitter water hole t another.

Entire tribes are held responsible for a murder or another crime committed by one member of the tribe. In the case of a murder a tribe must wander endlessly to keep one step ahead of the their pursuer until blood money can be raised.

A sheik is the head of a tribe. He is often the wealthiest member of the tribe and may posses more than a thousand camels. Among the important criteria in choosing a leader are age, religious piety, personal qualities, generosity and hospitality.

Sheik generally wield their authority through a chain of command through subtribes, fakhadhs, and buyuut. They have traditionally been in charge of distributing grazing rights and settling disputes. A sheik often has no muscle to back him up and wields power through moral authority and judging the desires of tribe members.

Bedouin Conflicts, Raids and Revenge Killings

Bedouin camel raceBedouins have traditionally gone out on ghazwas (“raids”) to settle scores and rustle livestock. An early Arabic poem goes: “With the sword I will wash my shame away,” Let God’s doom bring on me what it may!” In the old days, tribal conflicts often revolved around the rights to water and pastures. Brutal battles and the loss of many lives was often the result of such conflicts. Modern laws and law enforcement officers have largely been able exert control over Bedouins and pacify them.

Bedouins have nasty blood feuds that sometimes end in murder. Describing a revenge killing in southern Arabia in 1946, Wilfred Thesiger wrote: “Bin Mautlauq spoke of the raid in which young Sahail was killed. He and fourteen companions had surprised a small herd of Saar camels. The herdsmen had fired two shots at them before escaping, on the fastest of his camels, and one of these shots hit Sihail in the chest. Bakhit held his dying son in his arms as they rode across the plain with the seven captured camels. It was late in the morning when Sahail was wounded, and he lived till nearly sunset, begging for water which they had no t got.” ” [Source: Eyewitness to History , edited by John Carey, Avon, 1987]

“They rode all night to a small Saar encampment under a tree in a shallow valley. A woman was churning butter in a skin, and a boy and girl were milking the goats. Some small children sat under a tree. The boy saw them first and tried to escape but they corned him against a low cliff. He was about fourteen years old, a little younger than Sahail, and unarmed. When they surrounded him he put his thumbs in his mouth as a sign of surrender, and asked for mercy. No one answered him.”

Bakhit slipped own off his camel, drew his dagger, and drove it into the boy’s ribs. The boy collapsed at his feet, moaning, ‘Oh, my father! Oh, my father!’ and Bakhit stood over him till he died. He then climbed back into his saddle, his grief a little soothed by the murder…The small, long-haired figure, in white loincloth, crumpled on the ground, the spreading pool of blood, the avid clustering flies, the frantic wailing of the dark-clad women, the terrified children, the shrill incessant screaming of a small baby.”

Bedouin Food

Traditional Bedouin dinner on a plate for families
Traditional Bedouin dinner on a plate for families

Typical Bedouin food includes bread, rice dates, seasoned rice, yoghurt and milk and meat from their animals. Bedouins like to eat goat-and-rice dishes cooked over an open fire. A typical Bedouin breakfast consists of yoghurt, bread and coffee. Nomads have traditionally sold their animals and used the money to buy bags of wheat, rice, barely, salt, coffee and tea, which are carried by their animals.

Bedouin women making Bedouin bread
Bedouin women making Bedouin bread

Bedouin bread is made by women who flatten balls of dough into flat sheets and places them in a rounded stove for baking. Bread can also be baked in the sand or cooked over a campfire in a metal dome.

Dates are the staple of the Bedouin diet. They are harvested from palm trees and dried out in the sun and stored for the wintertime when they supply food for a family and sometimes for camels, goats and sheep. Bedouin can go for months, subsisting on nothing but dates, animal milk and water. Sometimes when swarms of locusts arrive they are collected, roasted and eaten. Some are dried and crushed into powder and stored. Animals are usually only slaughtered for feasts and celebrations.”

Beduin food-dishes
Beduin food-dishes

Bedouins have traditionally eaten rice and meat with their fingers while sitting on the ground or floor. When meat is eaten often a large chunk is passed around and everyone cuts of a piece with their dagger. Cooking has traditionally been done outside on camel dung campfires by women. The fire is made in a pit with three stones used as a support for the cooking pot.

Bedouin food with Bedouin family
Bedouin food with Bedouin family

Describing a Bedouin feast, Thomas Ambercrombie wrote in National Geographic, “Hardly a word was spoken…We ate busily, thrusting our right hands into the pilaf, squeezing the rice into bite size lumps and popping then into our mouths. The choicer tidbits—lungs, kidneys, an brain—the sheik tore out and laid before his guests. A young boy brought a dish of dates and bowls of fresh camel milk.” Bedouins often signal that a feast is over by licking their fingers and then leave to wash and return for fruit or desert.

Bedouin Drink and Hashish

Bedouin coffee
Bedouin coffee

Bedouins like to drink thick, gritty coffee traditionally made from green beans crushed in a brass mortar and spiced with cardamom, and sometimes ginger root. Out in the desert the coffee is brewed with water boiled over a brush wood fire and poured from a long-beaked brass pot into porcelain thimble-size cups or small cups that look like egg cups.

Coffee breaks are relished. They are the primary social activities. They are usually exclusively male affairs and sometimes last all day. If a stranger is spotted on the horizon a pot of coffee is brewed to offer with dates as hospitality when they arrive. A guest customarily accepts three servings. Bedouins signal they have had enough to drink by twisting the cup back and forth with their wrist. Coffee has traditionally been one of the most popular backsheesh gifts.

Bedouin kahwa is a strong aromatic coffee made with cardamon powder, saffron and rosewater. The coffee beans are roasted over a camel dung fire then ground. After a pinch of cardamon is added the coffee is brewed in a long neck brass pot. Some Bedouin slike Arabic coffee spiced with ginger and filtered with a layer of dried grass.

Bedouin also drink tea. Describing a Bedouin tea ceremony Abercrombie wrote: “Ahmad cracked a tall cone of hard sugar and popped a fist-size chunk into the hot tea along with handfuls of mint leaves, He poured himself a sip, sampling it with all the concern of a french wine taster. Another chink of sugar and it was perfect. He filled our glasses with the brew thick and sweet as syrup. ‘ Bismillah ,” the sheik intoned before we drank. “In Allah’s name.”

Bedouins often consume frothy camel milk communally from an aluminum basin. Explaining the attraction of the warm and sweet camel milk straight from the animal, one Omani Bedouin told National Geographic, “This is fresh as it gets. Makes everything digest. We drink it all the time.”

Some Bedouins smoke hashish. Mickey Hart, the drummer in the Grateful Dead, who spent some time with Bedouins in the Sinai, said he had to smoke the “heroic” amounts of hashish to get in good enough graces with his host to record some of their music.

Bedouin Beauty and Hygiene

Bedouin wedding ceremony, the Bride

Men, women, children and infants in Bedouin tribes decorate their eyes with kohl as the ancient Egyptians did. Some Bedouin women have geometric facial tattoos and henna-stained patterns on their calloused hands. Young Bedouin girls begin tying coins in their hair before their front teeth have grown in.

With water in short supply, Bedouins don’t take many baths. Before prayers they often wash with sand rather than scarce water. Bedouins wash their hair with powdered leaves of the sidr tree, a thorny fruit tree also know as Christ’s thorn because it believed to have been used to make Christ’s crown of thorns. The leaves are dried and pounded and mixed with water to make a lather.

Bedouin Clothes

Bedouin woman
Bedouin woman

Sun and sand protection is the primary objective with Bedouin clothes. Bedouin garments can be wrap around the wearer to keep the sand and sun out. Loose clothing tends to shield the skin from sun and provide enough open space that heat absorbed by the cloth is not directly transferred to the skin.

Each Bedouin tribe member wears slightly clothes to indicate locality, social position and marital status, with these things usually being indicated by embroidery on their cloak, headdresses, jewelry and hairstyle worn on special occasions. Each tribe has is own designs that are worn on their clothes, Tents and camels bags also carry these designs so that caravans can be identified from a distance.

Only Bedouin men tend to camels
Only Bedouin men tend to camels

A typical Bedouin man wear a white cotton foot-length, long-sleeve shirt, an aba (a long khaki ankle-length sleeveless robe), and red tasseled sash. Sometimes they wear a dagger in their belt. At night the aba is used a blanket. In many places Bedouin men wear a thobe (a long white gown). Sometimes they wear a long sleeve coat called a gumbaz or kibber over the thobe.

Bedouin men tend to wear camel hide sandals, ankle boots or Western-style shoes. Some go barefoot in the hot sand. To make standing in the hot sand bearable sometimes they stand on one and then alternate back and forth with the other foot. If they step on a thorn they use another thorn to dig it out.

On their head Bedouin men wear a Yasser-Arafat-style keffiyeh , which can be draped under the chin, lifted across the face for protection against sandstorms, or crossed under the chin and fixed on top of the head for warmth. The cloth headdress held in place by a thick wool cord of made of black goat hair. When it is cold he may wear a round wool cap under the a keffiyeh .

Bedouin Fashion Clothing and Accessories
Bedouin Fashion Clothing and Accessories

Women wear dark clothes and a kerchief held in place with a band of folded cloth. Red is usually worn by married women while blue is worn by unmarried women. Loose cloaks, or thobe , are worn for special events. These often feature embroidery around the neckline, sleeves and hems. Veils are often connected to a turban and are decorated with silver coins. Everyday clothes are much plainer. Bedouin women usually wear sandals.

Some Bedouin women wear a burqua , a mask-like veil that reveals only the eyes and neck and has a narrow ridge that runs down the middle of the face and looks like something an ax-murderer would wear. For a woman wearing such a garment only immediate relatives are allowed to see her face. Bedouin women in Saudi Arabia wear a black tent-like cloak over their clothes and a mask that covers the entire faces except for small eyes slits. In the desert most Bedouin women don’t wear veils because they are is simply too hot. They don them when strangers appear.

Bedouin Literature, Entertainment and Culture

Bedouin Music
Bedouin Music

At night Bedouin like lay a carpet o the sand and set up and campfire and drink tea and camel milk late into the night. When travelers are around they are invited to share a coffee. Travelers show they have had enough coffee by shaking their cups.

Bedouin music features a prominent clarinet, distinctive Bedouin rhythms and chanting. Around a campfire Bedouins may chant songs well into the night. Al-Huda is caravan chants were devised to help camels take their minds off their heavy loads. According to one story the songs were so effective that the camels would arrive a the destinations lively and full of strength but when the singing and drumming stopped the dropped dead from fatigue.

Bedouin Music
Bedouin Music

Bedouin instruments include drums, single string instruments and recorder-like wind instrument. A Bedouin instrument which dates Biblical times is the kinnor .”

Sheep wool and goat hair is woven into tents, carpets and blankets by women. Important artistic expressions of design, color and patterns is incorporated into these handicrafts.

Bedouins produce poetry and value oral skills among both men and women. Bedouin poems include advice to children, messages to lovers and enemies, self-deprecating dances, accounts of battles, and accounts of historical events. These poems have traditionally been recited around campfires at night along with folk tales and stories from Koran that sometimes give Mohammed supernatural powers,

Bedouin poems are often unique to the tribe, with tribes only a few kilometers away not knowing the verses of their neighbors. Since Bedouins were illiterate until relatively recently, their poetry, literature, history and traditions were passed on orally from one generation to the next.

Book: Bedouin Poetry of the Sinai and the Negev by Clinton Bailey (Clarendon Press, Oxford University)

Bedouin Education and Health

Bedouin Education
Bedouin Education

Many Bedouins can not read or write and have never spent a day in a school.

Bedouins that are 35 to 40 often look 50 or 60, a result of a hard life and exposure to the sun and dry air. Illness is attributed to imbalances of elements, the presence of evil spirits and germs.

Bedouin children walk to school in the Negev desert
Bedouin children walk to school in the Negev desert

A doctor who worked with Bedouins told National Geographic, “The most common problem is respiratory infection, because they live outside without proper housing in the winter. And their diet is mostly milk, meat, rice, some bread, and dates—no fresh fruit or vegetables.”

Bedouin class with the Palestinians
Bedouin class with the Palestinians

Treatments include modern medicine, herbal remedies, branding and the wearing of amulets, often with Koranic scriptures inside. Bedouins with heart trouble are sometimes treated with cigarette burns to the chests, a common folk remedy. Some Bedouins receive medical care from doctors that visit remote regions by plane. ☼

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, The Louvre, The British Museum, Google Images

Text Sources: History of Arab People by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); Islam, a Short History by Karen Armstrong (Modern Library, 2000); National Geographic articles about the Middle East; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

The Most Crazy History of Ancient Acco (Acre)

Acre or Akko or Acco
The current Acre or Akko or Acco
Heracles
Heracles

Acre, or Acco has really a crazy history and one of the many reasons for that is because Acre is so very old, continuously inhabited since the early Bronze Age (c. 2000-1550 BCE) some 4000 years ago. In Egyptian records, it is mentioned in the Execration Texts, the First Campaign of Thutmose III and the Amarna Letters (ca. 1800 BCE), and today what Acre means is a coastal city with a small harbor and loads of tourism and an absolute crazy history with too many conquers and defeats to count.

In the start of its existence as city, Greek mysteries were at work here. The Greeks referred to the city as Ake, meaning “cure”. According to the Greek myth, Heracles found curative herbs here to heal his wounds. Josephus calls it Akre.

Acre was given to the Tribe of Asher, but ‘poor’ Asher failed to take it(Judges 1:31). Then it was given to Hiram by Solomon (I Kings 9:11-13). If that was not enough, Assyrian monarch Sennecherib took Acre, and another Assyrian monarch Ashurbanipal took it from Sennecherib.

Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great

In 333 B.C., it fell to Alexander the Great, but the city fell under Egyptian sovereignty in 261 B.C., and was renamed Ptolemais after Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who was the king of Ptolemaic Egypt from 283 to 246 BCE. In 219 B.C., the city fell under Syrian sovereignty. The violent history of the port city took a break until 65 B.C.

Cleopatra
Cleopatra

The city was captured by Alexander Jannaeus, Cleopatra and Tigranes the Great. Alexander Jannaeus was the King of Judaea from 103 to 76 BC., who married the wife of his dead brother, was cruel and expanded the kingdom with a bloody civil war. Cleopatra was the last active pharaoh of Egypt, after her death Egypt became a province of the recently established Roman Empire. Tigranes the Great was King of Armenia under whom the country became, for a short time, the strongest state east of the Roman Republic. And who said that history is boring, huh?

Herod the Great

In that year the port city was part of the Roman empire under Pompey, when it became a Roman colony where army veterans were settled and built a Roman naval base. Here Herod the Great and Octavian (Jewish Historian for the Romans) met together and made their peace.

After some time of rest for the poor city, it became suddenly the focus point because of the first Jewish revolt. In fact, Acre is the city, where the actual first Jewish revolt started. In A.D. 66, it was sacked by the Jews in reprisal for the slaughter of the Jews in Caesarea.

The Roman reaction on the Jewish sacking of the port city didn’t sit well by the Roman empire, and the Romans made their headquarters here for the war in the First Jewish Revolt.

First Jewish Revolt
First Jewish Revolt

By the year 190, it had its own bishop. In the Byzantine Period, it became largely Samaritan and was named Samaritiki. In the year 614, the city was taken by the Persian Conquest. In the year 636, it became part of the Arab Conquest.

Baldwin I
Baldwin I

In 1104, the Crusaders took it under Baldwin I who renamed it Saint Jean d’Acre after Joan of Arc and the city often was called Acre – The Crusaders also turned it into a naval base. But it took the Crusaders 4 years of siege of the city to do that. The city provided the Crusaders with a foothold in the region and access to vibrant trade that made them prosperous, especially giving them access to the Asiatic spice trade.

After the Crusader stronghold of Jerusalem fell to the Arabs, it became the Crusader capital and main port for the Mediterranean and various orders set up their centers. The centers were The Knights Templars, The Teutonic Order, Order of Saint Lazarus and the Order of the Knights of Saint John – Hospitallers. The good thing out all of it was that they allowed the Jews to live there too (which was different then normal those times).

Saladin
Saladin

The Crusader centers were filled with proud men, who would die for their order they belonged to. In the beginning, the Crusaders  seemed to be unstoppable and ‘waltzed’ through any defense. Because of politics and betrayal, the Crusader centers were serious weakened.

Saladin came and conquered in the most unusable and unconventional ways possible in ancient and modern warfare. In 1187 Acre was taken by Saladin. In 1191 the Crusaders came back and took the city back under Richard the Lionhearted of England and Philip Augustus of France. In 1192, it became the capital of the Crusader Kingdom because they couldn’t take Jerusalem.

In the times of the Crusaders and Saladin, unusable strategies were applied in the battles about Acre. The city was occupied by Arabs, who were surrounded by Crusaders, who laid siege surrounding the city. Saladin came and surrounded the Crusaders, who surrounded the city. This continued for many years, until the Arabs within Acre fell and the Crusaders managed to penetrate the city and could stop Saladin of attacking the city.

Mameluke
Mameluke

In 1291, the mother of all battles occurred and the Crusaders were defending their last stronghold against Sultan Khalil el Ashraf (Mameluke). In Acre, there were more then 12,000 knights and they swore to fight till the last man against the ‘Arab hordes’.

And that’s exactly what they did. Even when many Crusaders were wounded, they would normally be spared by the Arab armies if they surrendered, but they choose to continue to fight until their last breathe. Many Crusaders were praying while they were fighting. Many of them were in a trance, trying to kill one attacker after the other while singing psalms. It scared the Arab armies to their core because of the eerie and sinister sound the Crusaders made.

After the terrible battle was finally over, Acre and the surroundings were covered by thick layers of the dead and a deadly quiet ruled the city and surroundings; only seven Crusaders survived. Many Arab soldiers who also survived this massive battle spread the stories of the terrible deeds of the Crusaders, who managed to kill more then 29,000 Arab soldiers in this battle. It seemed for the Arab soldiers and populations there there was a curse on the land and city. Their victory tasted more then bitter.

For hundreds of years everyone avoided to visit the city and the lands surrounding it and everything laid in ruins and stayed like that. Many locals were telling that they could hear the eerie quiet voices still singing the psalms of those who were killed in that terrible battle.

And after 458 years, Bedouin Sheikh Dehar el-Omar happened. Dehar el-Omar was the administrative head of northern Palestine in the mid-18th century, while the area was nominally part of the Ottoman Empire. He managed to bring the cities Tiberias, Arraba, Nazareth, Deir Hanna together under his rule and finally added Acre to his list.

He built fortifications, but not really rebuilt to city. For this, he invited the Jews to join him, which they did by mass. Bedouin Sheikh Dehar el-Omar hoped that the Jews would rebuild the city to its full splendor, but they didn’t. It looked like the Crusaders curse was still there. The city became a center of the cotton trade instead between Palestine and Europe. Acre had that time a functioning harbor and fortifications surrounding the city with makeshift houses between the ruins of hundreds of years of age. In the mid-1760s, Sheikh Dehar el-Omar refocused on something else and he reestablished the port town of Haifa nearby.

In 1775, Ahmed Pasha the Albanian (El Jazzar) rebuilt the city with its splendor. He also built the Turkish Aqueduct that brought water from the Kabri Stream to Acco. The Crusader’s curse seemed to be broken by El Jazzar, according the locals those times.

In 1799, the French armies arrived under Napoleon, but they manage to withstand the Napoleonic siege. El Jazzar managed that tremendous feat.

The biggest power for the Napoleon’s armies was their artillery, or with other words their heavy cannons. Their strategy was actually first the bombardments, then charge with infantry. They used cavalry as well, but that was useless during sieges. El Jazzar was for sure aware of that, and took care that his men were as protected as possible under the French bombardments; the city walls were thick and strong. The French failure was actually quite simple to explain: the ran out of cannonballs. At the end it would be too costly to attack the city with only infantry and they gave up.

In 1814 Suleiman Pasha became the ruler of Acco and totally rebuilt the aqueduct and it is the aqueduct that is still visible today.

El Jazzar
El Jazzar

During the British Mandate Period, the Citadel was used as the British prison where many of the Jewish freedom fighters such as Jabotinsky were imprisoned and others were hung. In 1947, Jewish commandos breached the walls of the fortress freeing both Jewish and Arab prisoners. In 1948, it was one of the three strategic cities of Galilee which fell to Jewish forces – Captured in May 1948.

From all that history, what’s left to look at?

Ottoman aqueduct to Acre
Ottoman aqueduct to Acre

First, we have the aqueducts in Acre (Helenistic, El-Jazzar and Suleiman Pasha). Those aqueducts gathered its water from Ein Shefa, Ein Giah, Ein Shayara and Ein Zuph.

Acre
El-Jazzar Mosque

Secondly, we have the El Jazzar Mosque, the El Jazzar Fortress (Used by the British as a prison and place of execution for Jewish underground fighters), Saint John’s Crypt, Khan El-Umdan, Tel el-Fukhkhar (Toron), Crusader Subterranean City, Harbor, walls (built by El-Jazzar).

El Jazzar Fortress
El Jazzar Fortress
Saint John’s Crypt
Saint John’s Crypt
Khan El-Umdan
Khan El-Umdan
Tel el-Fukhkhar
Tel el-Fukhkhar
Hospitaller Fortress also known as the Citadel of Acre
Hospitaller Fortress also known as the Citadel of Acre

 

Napoleon
Napoleon

What is interesting is Tel el-Fukhkhar or the Old Testament Tel is this is the oldest part of Acre and since the Crusaders, still important. The Crusaders called it Toron, from here Richard the Lionhearted set out to conquer the city, the French called this the Napoleon’s Hill, because they tried to conquer the city but failed and finally Israeli forces launched their attack on the city in 1948 and succeeded. I guess there was no El Jazzar anymore.

And you, my dear reader, think that’s it? You’re wrong. The current times is nothing else then history for those who study history in the next 50 or 100 years. We are simply part of it.

 

The Tour from Hell

This tour was the tour from hell … for me. For the group absolutely not, because they had loads of fun, costing me my hair of course. We are talking about a tour, which shows what Israel actually is, a mixture of culture, adventure, exploration and Israeli sights in all the major touristic centers of Israel. This article is part of the Tour Guide Diaries September 2016.

I’m working on whole range of new tours, like the so called low-budget tours and the tours, which mixes several things together in a more exciting tour then currently exists, and this tour is one of them (for example, we go on concert in the evening, visit festivals, workshops, join even a work camp to dig into the ground with the archeologists, visit the sights, do a little gem-touring, etc.). We were out for 12 days, our group was 50 (originally 30) strong from all over the United States, ages were between 17 and 63, and the group arrived at the airport 13 days ago (from the date of publishing)(so I’m recovering already for three days).

Welcome to Israel from the Ben Gurion Airport
Welcome to Israel from the Ben Gurion Airport

We went to the airport in a very good mood, I had my junior guides with me (Igor and Lena or together “the Juniors”), our new bus and the driver with the nickname “the Beast” (he’s small and overly polite and never shows any emotion, so his nickname is “the Beast” and his real name is Eddie) to pickup our new group for our new mixture tours.

One thing about nicknames! I really didn’t gave them their nicknames. I’ve no nickname … except ‘the Sheik’, because of some small misunderstanding last August, where some Bedouin men on the goat market of Be’er Sheba were advising me to take ten women as wives to drink coffee with me, but nobody remembers that, thank goodness for that.

I double checked my nice, sign-board (so people know it’s us) I was holding with our names on it to welcome our group. I really don’t want to repeat that prank from the last time where the driver changed the text into “Here’s the Idiot” or something like that. The board covered our names nicely.

When the people started to stream out of the checkout I held up my board and voila! People noticed and streamed to us with smiles on their faces. I spoke before their flight with them in a conference call over the Internet and I’m happy they were in such a good mood.

Hi Sheik! How are you?!” one yelled cheekily with a big grin on his face (someone has been talking)! And soon we were almost overwhelmed with the thirty people … and some … more? We moved our group from the hall to let them drink something and have maybe a bite to eat, but I realized that the group was much larger then 30! I was already upset about the Sheik thing and now this. Maybe some people they met during their flight? The Juniors were already suspiciously grinning.

It turned out that at the last moment they found more people who wanted to join this tour, but ‘forgot’ to tell me. So, suddenly instead of 30 people, we have now 45 people! And not to forget the payments. And the reservations. And the bus! And my heart! And what’s left of my hair! And not to forget my blood pressure.

You know, I’m just 56 years old and I’m old man and it’s really in those times that I’m thinking about going on pension. Maybe a pension on an island somewhere with nobody else then my wife. Well … when my wife comes with me, then she wants her cats also to come with us. And her aquarium with those bl**dy fish too. And the kids too and they have dogs.

I suddenly realize that we have a problem. The hotel reservation with our hotel is in Jerusalem and I know that they have no additional place; they are booked full (they had place for us of course, but with 30 people, not 45). One of my Juniors grabbed my hand, which was busy to pull out my hair (not joking). While the group was amusing themselves, five more people came in to join the group (they said ‘sorry, we’re late’, carrying large boxes with toys they bought at Duty Free). That’s 50!

I called a colleague, who must find us a hotel in or near Jerusalem, who can place a group of 53 people that same day. In high season! I quickly broke the connection with the swearing colleague (he’s called ‘The Pipe’, because he smokes … guess what? Correct, large cigars).

Feeling better, I processed the extra people, gave a pep talk to the Juniors and moved the army … eh … group to the Beast (to our bus). The poor man’s face lit up when he saw us coming. When the people started to enter his bus, slowly his expression turned from happy into confused … then shocked and was trying to find me … only I was at a safe distance looking at the scene and waiting for the expected eruption of ‘the beast’ soon to be … erupting.

‘The Beast’ came out of his bus and walked straight at me. I pointed at the Juniors with my thumb and blamed them for the problem of overcrowding his new and shiny bus. Before the juniors could react and recover from the shock, I was already moving quickly into the bus to tackle the next problem. That’s called strategical thinking. I don’t remember who advised something like that, but what I do remember was the advise “… never admit you’re wrong, always blame the one next to you …”. It never works with my wife though.

So in the bus, I started to bring the problem in front of our group. They came up right before they left to Israel with an additional 20 people for the group without telling us and we have only reservations for 30 people and the hotel is booked full. There will be no chance in hell that we would find another hotel for 50 people  within a couple of hours, then maybe a beach … but no beach in Jerusalem. And not to forget the damage for the hotel if we cancel at the last moment, the money would not be returned and the tour would be more expensive for all of us.

So the group decided that they would room together for this night. Not that they cared, because it was a rowdy group, who would be visiting a pop-concert that night after dinner in the old city and I saw already several girls checking out several gents. I felt my blood pressure going up when I also saw the expression of several of the people of this group who were already grinning mischievously.

During our talk, my disgruntled Juniors were already in the bus and my driver in his place. When he started the motor, I could hear how upset he was. The bus is exactly for 53 people and we always have a golden rule to have a larger bus then we there are people in the group. Well, technically we still have (three reserve places), but it was not ideal. They will suffer during the tour.

While we were on our way to Jerusalem, I got a phone call with a swearing Pipe (the guide my age checking out hotels) and he said he moved the reservations to another hotel the days after for 52 people and claimed that I could sleep outside and hung up. Funny boy. Oof. Two things down. Now a bigger bus and that would be even perfect. So instead of chatting with ‘the Beast’ myself, I sent him a SMS. Much more manly, not? I could have sent the Juniors, but they were angry at me for some reason.

American Colony Hotel
American Colony Hotel

All went well during our trip to our hotel in Jerusalem. We only had four bathroom stops, so nothing more then normal in such situation (never happened like that, but who cares at that point). We arrived at last at the American Colony Hotel.

We all got out of our bus and we moved into our hotel, with a smiling hotel manager who was looking at us happily and welcomed us in Israel with open arms. That continued – smiling and all – until he realized that there were not 30 of us, but the whole “g&^^%^$^%$%#$%d” US army!  Suddenly he was not smiling anymore and I saw him already looking for me. The cowards of a Juniors ran already in the hotel, so I was forced to confront the manager myself.

After calming the manager down (and pay a fortune to do that), he clearly didn’t care anymore to welcome us to his hotel, he disappeared posthaste. After everyone was checked in, and disappeared into the hotel, I could sit in one of those easy sofas at last.

That evening I discovered that I forgot to check myself in. “Well, sorry, no place!” But I arranged a bigger bus (the bus was called Fat Bertha, like that super gun), the Beast was happy again. The Juniors were alright after they found out I slept on the sofa. What else? Oh yes. One woman hurt her foot during wild dancing (is the Polkas a dance?), another one discovered that she’s pregnant, one man thought he lost his way and was in the wrong hotel, while he was wandering around at the back of our hotel and we experienced yesterday evening an example what Israeli rock sounded.

The concert hall was a cafe and the rock turned out to be House Music, but that was really great and everyone danced and had fun. They didn’t want to go back to the hotel at the end, but the bouncers almost kicked us out. We took Fat Bertha and went back to our hotel, still singing and dancing.

I had pain in my head and my back was hurting because of sleeping on the sofa. The Juniors had fun and were in a good mood, the Beast was still polishing Fat Bertha and our group was in a super good mood after a great breakfast (I ate chips). At the end we moved into Fat Bertha and drove to the Jerusalem markets and shopping streets. Why? We rented off a restaurant for the day, where everyone could demonstrate that they wanted to cook and we suppose to eat what the volunteers would prepare for us. The Chef of the restaurant refused to allow us ‘barbarians‘ in his kitchen alone, so he would stand guard (in the middle of his kitchen).

I skip a couple days of the tour and move to the 5th day, the day that we go to Be’er Sheba. But one more remark about the cooking in the restaurant. It was so much fun and we ate so well that evening after loads of shopping (we went back three times to the market and it was a fortune what they bought). The group didn’t burn down his kitchen nor the restaurant! And the cook hid the large knifes for some reason.

We arrived at our usual hotel in Be’er Sheba. Be’er Sheba is a very nice place, but the choice in hotels is limited and they can’t be compared with the hotels in Eilat, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But this Be’er Sheba hotel would do. And who was there waiting for us while we were checking in the hotel? Right, the same worried looking manager from last August, who was confronted with the fact that there were two small goats running rampage in his hotel in the middle of the night in August and one totally destroyed (or better eaten) room.

Bedouin Goat Market
Bedouin Goat Market

The manager didn’t look pleased. He asked me though if we plan to go to the goat market today. Of course we would go to the goat market and not to forget the chicken market too. And this time I arranged also a small tour on camels and we would maybe see a small auction of buying and selling camels (and we have also chicken speed running organized). I told him that, and he really didn’t look pleased. I guaranteed him that we this time inspect everyone coming in and out of the bus for hidden goats, chickens and camels. The only thing he said was that he would do the same when we would come back to the hotel.

I was happy at that time, because we would only stay one night at his hotel, before we would spent two days in the desert with carts and camels. I really didn’t look forward to meet Fred the Camel again, so I could avoid having a camel tour in Eilat.

Market in Be’er Sheba
Market in Be’er Sheba

We indeed went to the markets in Be’er Sheba (the normal one, and the goat and chicken markets). Nothing exciting happened, except that our group was very hard to keep together (50 rowdy people in a very good mood with loads of energy) with three guides (the Juniors and I). We didn’t pickup any other group, they didn’t buy any goats or chickens, nobody got upset, but there were some people who bought some strange Bedouin dresses for women for some reason. We also tried the camels. That was so much fun that others have problems climbing on camels like I usual have. But no auction of camels, otherwise I could change my Juniors for a camel or three goats maybe, damn that manager.

Bedouin Goat Market
Bedouin Goat Market

We met those same Bedouin men who were asking about my 10 women and again explained to the group that I’ve a harem and 20 children, but I got my coffee. That reminded me about ordering the evening amusement and this time we had real Bedouin musicians not such phony flop of a so called d^&&*^*%&^$%^ magician and his sexy belly dancer like back in August during the goat disaster. The Juniors were giggling! I was highly suspicious seeing that, but at that moment my attention was drawn to my camel, who was trying to bite me. All camels in the world only try to bite me and nobody else.

In the evening back to the hotel, we met the manager, who was indeed inspecting everyone (I forgot to check anyone for hidden goats, chickens and camels), but he obviously not. After that, he insisted in inspecting Fat Bertha and when The Beast finally understood what the manager wanted, they together almost tore the bus apart for their ridiculous quest for goats, chickens and camels! Honestly, who do they think we are?

That evening there was no original Bedouin music, but that belly dancer and her bl**dy so called magician who was loudly calling me “The Sheik” again. I will get my revenge on my Juniors for that!

But thank goodness, I slept wonderful (even when the Beast was snoring loudly), no goats on the rampage, but I heard in the morning that the manager couldn’t sleep all night.

Ramon Crater
Ramon Crater

The next day we visited the Ramon Crater and met our Bedouins. Guess who? My old Bedouin man and his many children and camels and … Fred the Camel. Fred the Camel was the camel only for me, according the Bedouin. Damn him and his camel. The same for the Juniors. I will cook them and feed them to Fred the camel. Never met something so smelly and with such awful sounds he makes when he sees me. Always in a bad mood too. And he bites. And tries to throw me off when I finally manage to climb on his back.

Experience Eilat's Mountains

We moved to the desert with the group on the back of the camels. I knew that the Bedouin with his many children were waiting somewhere with jeeps. They suppose to pick us up tomorrow evening for a big party with the Bedouins. That evening we finally could sleep at 3 am, after I translated again the campfire stories of the old Bedouin. Instead of his usual horror theme, he was telling about the old caravans of ancient times, who were stranded in the middle of the desert and were forced to eat their own camels … and scorpions and other insects to survive.

Experience Eilat's Mountains

I changed the story and translation somewhat (the man speaks only Arabic) and told the group that camel meat tasted just like what we all ate that evening (we ate lamb). The woman who discovered (at the beginning of the tour) that she was pregnant started to puke and the Bedouin who didn’t understand English was looking at me and pointed threatening at Fred the camel and shook slowly his head, frowning and all that jazz.

So he was telling another story about the young Bedouin woman, who fell in love with a boy her age from another tribe, while her father promised her to someone else (three times her age). He translated dutifully, but every time I wanted to make his story sound more … juicy (?), the old Bedouin man (who didn’t understand English?) was pausing and frowning at me. No fun like that.

Under the stars of the desert, it would quiet anyone, so impressive it was. The old Bedouin suddenly had deep knowledge of the stars and demonstrated it. He was trying to explain to us how you could navigate in the desert and with only the stars.

The next morning was a disaster. Fred the camel managed to bite me straight in my behind and couldn’t sit very well any more after that. According Junior, Fred’s teeth were visible for days after that. It seems to be funny for the group though.

Eilat
Eilat

When we finally arrived at our hotel in Eilat, I could find relieve there. For whatever reason, the group tipped the Bedouin man extra! Not fair. They can’t handle some teasing? Especially when everyone was calling me Sheik.

Hilton Eilat Queen Of Sheba Hotel
Hilton Eilat Queen Of Sheba Hotel

I skip the tour here to the tenth day and we are in Jericho. Until then we survived, we didn’t pick additional guests up in our group, we didn’t loose anyone, neither additional goats or any other animals, my behind was alright again and could sit (tenderly). We still were using Fat Bertha the bus and the Beast our driver was still happy. I couldn’t exchange my juniors for camels or goats, so they were still there, looking wearily at me when I could prank them back.

Tel al-Sultan near Jericho
Tel al-Sultan near Jericho

But now we arrived in Jericho and that’s a special place in Israel. Not only it’s the oldest place you can find anywhere in Israel and surroundings, but also very mysterious. There were so many cultures and civilizations arriving and disappearing in Jericho over the many thousands of years, nobody really could even count them. There are hundreds of layers of different buildings built once in Jericho and the archeologists are still counting.

The Canaan were a bunch of wild people, who believed in all kind of gods, who are now classified as demons or devils. So everyone was interested in my horror stories and that I did. So they were already in the proper mood for the Mount of Temptation!

Mount of Temptation
Mount of Temptation

Then we came to the Mount of Temptation near Jericho, where everyone was highly impressed about my strange stories. They wanted to see proof and so we did. We didn’t take the cable cars but walked and climbed the mountain.

Mount of Temptation, the mountain and the monastery
Mount of Temptation, the mountain and the monastery

Half way some people were murmuring something bad of course, until we reached the promised caves and showed them the scratches the devil once had made thousands of years ago, when Jesus was tempted by the same devil to make bread from stone. I showed them the caves of the hermits of old, who dedicated their lives to live there and to pray, never talked to anyone else anymore for more then 40 years.

Or the Hermit who became mad after seven years in a narrow cave and who received food from people from Jericho. He became too fat to exit his cave and he died there. His spirit still haunts the cave, some believe.

Mount of Temptation, inside in the monastery
Mount of Temptation, inside in the monastery

When we finally arrived at the Monastery, everyone was looking a bit sketchy, especially my two Juniors. The Monastery is amazing where you can see the personal cells of the Monks still working there. It’s still not too late to allow the Juniors to dump them there for some month or so, I was joking of course, but one Junior thought I meant it. Ha!

At day 12 we said good bye to everyone. All went well after the disasters at the beginning when suddenly our group grew from 30 till 50. Nobody bought or smuggled any goat or camel, nobody destroyed or ate a room, I got finally my revenge on my Juniors and I had one happy large group of people who felt bad that they needed to go home.

I still have my hair (mostly), I will not see Fred the camel for at least one week and I’m dead on my feet. Now I go back home to see if my wife is still there.

I also discovered that Eddie (‘The Beast’) decided to sleep in Fat Bertha his new bus when I finally came home. My wife hid my phone after that, so I could not help him out. I discovered the day after that he changed our old new bus with Fat Bertha and the bus company was not happy.

Turkish train station

The Turkish train station – at the war war 1 the Turkish cooperation with the German in exertion to conquest Egypt. at the frame of war exertion they built railroad track which lead from Damascus to Beer Sheva. Map.

Turkish train station
Turkish train station

In 30/10/1915 the inaugurated Beer Sheva train station with attendance of turkey army commander “Jamal Fasha” , and seniors government people. the line was active until the British conquest. at the Israeli independence war the station be used as headquarters to Egypt army. Today it’s closed and not use, just next to it you can see the the station manager house. Near boulevard David Tuviau 27 [bus 13]. The train station is locate near boulevard David Tuviau ad Bialik street intersection, you can say [ boulevard David Tuviau 27 ]. You can take bus 13 and get down at Beth Yatziv guest house. Click here for the map of Beer Sheva.

Turkish train station
Turkish train station