It was past four in the evening. The sun was still shining at its magnificent best. It was piercing the right side of my face as strongly as the uncertainty was piercing me. The uncertainty of finding success in tracing the purest Arabs- The Bedu. The car was preparing to ride through the desert. The sand was changing contours as a mild wind blew over the vast stretch of sand dunes. The tires of the car interrupted the process when it exerted force through the calm of the sand. Once in the desert, sheds of camels appeared at regular intervals. It was now that the cliché the ‘land of the camels’ seemed justified. Truly and beautifully of many, many a camels. Some sheds were covered with palm leaves at heights enough to keep them in enclosure while the others were kept within the boundaries of barbed wires. I would later learn that the ones that were kept covered were mostly the female camels or more specifically those that are used to race and the others were those that were milked and raised. It was only in one instance that the camels were replaced by cows and more cows. Throughout the rest of the journey it was only camels-black, white, brown and those of different shades.
A portacabin appeared at a distance. The car now had a sense of direction. Driving closer, three cars were parked in the front. A man appeared in the traditional Bedouin outfit. Prejudice No 1– Bedouins don’t know English and I’d have to struggle with my little bits of Arabic. WRONG. His English left me dumbstruck. It was absolutely fluent for what I expected of a ‘Bedu’. After my introduction with details of an attempt at documenting the life of a Bedouin, the reply was more of a chuckle and quick- “Sister, Its 2013”
It then seemed futile to list out any other prejudice that was cementing in me ever since I had this story in mind. It all crumbled and fell in pieces over another. “Its all electric now. We have houses, ACs, cars and facilities. Its nothing like it used to be.” Strange, how could I not have guessed that times had changed and the need for a Bedouin to live like the previous times was not longer of a necessity at all?
Nevertheless, undeterred, I was guided to the community of Bedouins I would meet a kilometer ahead in the midst of the desert, maybe if in old times there would be an oasis of green pastures and water and a relief from the harsh conditions that existed.
Soon you’l find out in my coming posts that most of what we expect to encounter in the deserts of a Modern Bedouin is all a crumbling wall.