Married to a Bedouin, by Marguerite van Geldermalsen

The Bdoul Bedouin no longer live inside Petra, that ancient city in the south of Jordan. They no longer set up their tents of woven hair on the long, wind-catching ridges and invite passing tourists to share a cup of tea in the shade, an evening meal, or even a place to sleep as they did when I met my husband there in the summer of 1978.

I was from New Zealand; Mohammad had been born in one of the caves.



Married to a Bedouin is the story of how I fell in love with Mohammad Abdallah and married him; how I settled into his cave, and slept with him on the ledge in front under a sheet of stars; how I learned to fetch water by donkey, bake bread daily and how I ran the local clinic.




Seven years later, in 1985, when the Bedouin were resettled to the Umm Sayhoon village on a hillside overlooking Petra, I was a part of the tribe.

And since then I have been a part of the story of Petra. I worked alongside Mohammad selling sand bottles, t-shirts and later silver jewellery and people always asked how come I was there. As I answered their questions about the life here, married to my Bedouin and living in the valley of Petra, I realised that time was moving quickly and the life I was describing was difficult to see. That’s when I started thinking of all the stories I had to tell.

Through these stories, my own and the stories of the people I shared the valley with, I offer the recent history of Petra.