Right around sundown our mega tour bus entered a parking lot to join the other dozens of buses already parked seemingly in nowhere. Our tour group and many others liked to think that this Bedouin camp was off the grid but we all knew better. In fact we were just off the highway probably no more than a half hour from a city.
The first agenda is to move into the permanently constructed, “authentic Bedouin tent”. Quite ironic I think. Despite this I still thought the atmosphere created by the tent and decor felt pretty ethnic and relaxing.
Our Bedouin dinner meant sitting on cushions while being served a big communal platter of salads, baked chicken, and bread. Tradition is many Arab and Muslim countries means eating with your hands. I actually did this before a few times back in Bangladesh, while eating a homemade dinner at my friends house. But it never gets an easier.
A part of the Bedouin experience means meeting with a real live Bedouin meant to represent the culture. It was a pretty awkward experience. Our guide clearly had no interest in being there. He explained his traditions unenthusiastically, playing his music with the least amount of passion. His speech was clearly rehearsed.
Being situated in the desert we had a unique opportunity to go on a short little hike to nowhere. It was freezing out so I ended up wrapping my chest in my sleeping back which I held in place with my jacket. Besides feeling warmer I received some strange attention with a few buddies taking turns punching me because of my armor!
The 40 or so of us walked away from the campsite for a good ten minutes. From there our guide instructed each of us to find a spot alone in the dark and reflect for 15 minutes. I have done things like before and typically enjoy it. I didn’t have any deep aha moments this time but laying flat on my back on the ground felt tranquil. When we wall returned to the group one of us was missing. This particular guy has a habit of being late to everything. I never imagined he would be late to rejoin the group since there really isn’t anywhere interesting to wander off to in a dark, cold desert. Sure enough it turns out during his fifteen minutes of reflection he found some secluded spot to relieve himself.
Our night in the desert culminated in a campfire with kosher marshmallows, gossips, and stories. Try to imagine marshmallows without gelatin. It really doesn’t work well.
Later on a few Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers joined our raging fire. Woo!
Wake-up time was 6:00AM. At 6:15 we approached the Camel pen for our cliche camel ride in the desert.
A Bedouin worker led a pack of camels outside the pen and instructed them to lie down for our group of 40 to eventually mount them – 2 to a camel.
The camels walked for a good fifteen minutes until we went full circle ending back at the starting point.
Just a minute or two later the next tour group of 40 repeated the process.
And so went our day with the “Bedouins”.