Monday, November 05, 2012

We're On The Road to Nowhere in the land of 1,000 cups of tea

The place was miles away from any known town or village on the map. The Rashaida live in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Judean desert. I had visited them for a one day trip 3 years before, but this was my first overnight with them (). My friend was having a birthday gathering/party and decided to have a campout with friends at the Bedouin tribe's encampment. Passing Maale Amos, the last remote settlement on the road, groups of kids stood on the road watching our convoy of about 7 cars pass by and waved and smiled. Some got out to photograph groups of camels and one young man excitedly ran over to our car - "Have you ever been to India? THIS is so much like India, the way the kids behave and the view!" His wonderful memories of a faraway exotic land were all coming back to him. I tried to GPS where we were and the only thing I got was a blue pulsing dot in the middle of a grey grid. That blue dot in the middle of nowhere caused so much laughter, the birthday girl passed aruond my iPhone showing the blue dot to everyone in the large tent.

We brought in the Sabbath and found a corner table inside the tent to light the Sabbath candles. Then when it got dark, over the kiddush and challot, we had our Bedouin dinner served to us. The younger Bedouin kids hung around us the entire time - they all looked under 7 years old and were so well-behaved we wonder why people think Bedouin are primitive. Their mothers were probably thrilled to have their kids off their hands. I asked one little girl - she must have been no older than 5 - if she wanted to eat. She waved "no" with her little finger. After we all took food, I saw the little girls take food for themselves. So different from our "civilized" brood who whine when they're hungry and tired. The Bedouin kids were adorable, filthy, but so well-behaved. We marveled at how they lived - and walked around on the stones barefoot as if it were just a regular carpeted area - not having changed clothing the next day. How many days did they wear the same outfit? Their hair was long and crackly dry. The adult men's teeth were all rotted and we thought it must be from the 1,000 cups of extremely sugary tea that they drink all day.

That night the local musicians came over and played oud, rabab and another strange instrument that looked similar but with more strings than a rabab. We took turns singing an assortment of Israeli classical folk songs and what seemed like Bedouin love songs. The friend who drove us there spoke Arabic and went over to the women's tent where the women of that family lived. Muhammad has 2 wives who actually say they get along. They seem to think it not strange at all for a man to have more than one wife. They're also cousins which makes it more familiar for them. They seemed to pity our single friend who lived alone. "They probably think your family rejected you and tossed you out into the big, wide, cruel world," I told her. After all, this doesn't happen in their communities. We were happy to hear that their oldest, a 12th grader, loves school and intends to go to university. In fact, all their kids seem to love school. That struck me more strange than anything. My kids and their friends, couldn't wait to finish their schooling. They certainly didn't love it. They coped with it.

Next day we woke up with the sunrise. We saw the little Bedouin children with their mothers sitting quietly outside their tin shack. Again - quietly. So surprising for me. The goats went out of their pen and Muhammad made some goat-like noises to get them back to where they belong. After a breakfast of fresh piping hot Bedouin pita, tea, coffee and cucumbers and tomatoes (no labane until the Spring, because the goats were pregnant, we were told), we headed out in the direction of the Dead Sea. It was a 4 hour hike, through several mountain ridges, with a different magnificent view every time you made a turn. I was happy to go with Muhammad as a guide because he knows every inch of this place. The view to the Dead Sea was beautiful, and on the way, people stopped off at wells and caves for some singing sessions. Luckily, their 2 jeeps came our way and took us back - a 40 minute roller coaster ride over the mountains.

A beautiful weekend spent in an enchanting place in the land of 1,000 cups of tea, in the middle of nowhere.

1 comment:

Tomasz said...

Your adventure sounds exciting! To stay with Bedouins is not a usual thing to do - I wish I had experienced something similar. You really get to know people when you live with them. That is much more interesting than just being a tourist.