Camp with the Bedouin of Oman and Jordan

Ever dreamed of Arabia? Bedouin camps amid sweeping dunes, a vast elemental wilderness with far, far horizons, a caravan of camels in the distance led by a man in robes, padding a trail towards a palm-fringed oasis – all the romantic imaginings you can conjure still exist in Oman and Jordan, with plenty of surprises besides.

Our new 16 day Oman and Jordan Adventure will take you through the deserts, souks, museums and mosques of these ancient lands, including a few nights under a blanket of stars in Bedouin camps.

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The Bedouin

The generosity of the Bedouin people is legendary. Sitting amongst them, sharing their lifestyle beneath countless stars and towering dunes, you’ll be struck by the contrast between their gregarious nature and the forbidding hostility of the desert. And no doubt, when out in such enormous space, be aware why this kind of pleasure in company has developed.

The Bedouin, a name derived from the Arabic word bedu, meaning ‘inhabitants of the desert’, are Arabs who traditionally live a nomadic way of life in the arid regions that stretch from the Arabian Peninsula across the Sinai to the Sahara and up through Syria. These days only 10% of Bedouins are indeed nomadic people of the desert – the rest are rural or city dwellers. Ethnically they are identical to other Arabs, but they do speak particular Bedouin dialects of Arabic.

Traditionally, Bedouin make their living by animal husbandry. Their social rank is indeed governed by the animals they herd. Camel nomads enjoy the greatest status, followed by sheep and goat herders, then cattle nomads. In the past, Bedouin migrated into the desert during the rainy season. But since returning to cultivated regions during the dry season but since the Second World War, some Arabic countries have nationalized their Bedouin ranges, creating conflict over land use. Many Bedouin now maintain a sedentary way of life, but most retain a strong pride in their nomadic heritage, particularly as people who can navigate and live with ease in the desert, and can see life where others just see barren waste.

 

Wahiba Sands, Oman & Wadi Rum, Jordan

The Wahiba Sands happily adheres to the mythic images of Arabia: seas of golden sand and date palm oases; Bedouin camps hidden amidst sweeping desert dunes; nights spent under inky velvet skies enjoying the hospitality of a tribe long used to living in such hostile environments. Wahiba, for all its vast grandeur, is but a taste of the Arabian Peninsula’s ‘empty quarter’, an enormous stretch of sand that has long captivated travellers. A 4WD trip into the sands gets you up close and personal with the mind-blowing landscape.

Wadi Rum is similarly a mind-blowing expanse of sand, but with rock monoliths protruding in evocative sculptural forms, some in complete arches and bridges. The grandeur of the landscape is astounding, both in scale and simplicity.

To best feel this sublime, powerful and vast wilderness, stay overnight beneath a brilliant night sky in a Bedouin camp, but try to get there before sunset – the lowering sun bathes the great sea of sand in a warming gold, the shadows of the ghaf trees and folds of countless dunes begin to lengthen. At your Bedouin camp food is prepared, coffee and dates shared. After dinner some music is played, stories are swapped and more coffee is inevitably poured. Being part of the Bedouin lifestyle feels an almost binary experience in among a harsh landscape that humbles with its immensity and intense silence, you’re among some of the most gregarious and hospitable people you’ll ever meet.

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