B'doul tribe in Petra, Jordan

B'doul tribe in Petra, Jordan

adventure travel & photography

Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong ◦◦ Greece ◦◦ Ukraine ◦◦ Syria ◦◦ Morocco

Type: Photo stories ◦◦ Places ◦◦ Documentary ◦◦ Black and White ◦◦ Fine Art Prints ◦◦ Seascapes ◦◦ Urban

The story

I have travelled to Petra several times, including as a small group leader. The first few times, the archaeological excavations were the most exciting part of those trips. The last time I was there, I started paying more attention to the locals - the men, women and children who hung out in front of the ancient caves and monuments, selling souvenirs or riding back and forth on their donkeys. These were the people of the B'doul tribe.

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Although I wanted to learn more about them, I was more interested in the photographic aspect of these people - their faces, activities, clothing, and presence amidst the ruins as a whole. Petra wouldn't be the same without them; it would be just a museum, beautiful and exciting but dead.

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The B'doul tribe inhabited the caves of Petra until the 1980s. They claim descent from the Nabataeans, who lived in the region toward the end of the Roman Empire. However, researchers cannot prove their relationship with the Nabataeans because of insufficient research and unreliable information.

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After World War I, Emir Abdullah (who ruled Transjordan after the war) met with Bedouin sheikhs in 1923. He asked them to officially declare their territorial claims to Petra and the surrounding area and to pay appropriate taxes. Since the Bedouins, of course, had no money, they agreed to cede the land to the state in exchange for a guarantee of their livelihood. Thus, the land around Petra no longer belonged to them.

After Petra was added to the World Heritage List UNESCO in the mid-1980s, many B'doul Bedouins were forced to abandon their semi-nomadic life and move to the newly built Um Saihun settlement near Petra, where they live today. They go to Petra daily to work as guides or provide the local flavour - from music and entertainment to transportation by camels and donkeys. It seems that they feel very connected to the place, and some still hold on to the Bedouin life and customs in the ancient valley.

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Some of the Bedouins are incredibly knowledgeable and speak excellent English. I was surprised by one of our local guides, whose English was impressive.

Unfortunately, Petra has many working children who sell souvenirs along ancient paths along the old ways. Many of them leave school to help their parents.

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If tourists wanted to see in the B'doul people the incarnation of the Nabataeans, they probably accepted that role. Propagating that identity was a strategy to gain recognition, and that's perfectly fine. If that helps them now, who cares if the Nabatean genes are still there or not.

Here is an interesting article about the B'doul tribe if you want to learn a bit more about them.

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Digital downloads and prints available

Practical information:

Petra is an easy place to visit independently. For travellers flying to Queen Alia International Airport, which is 30 minutes from Amman, you can reach Petra in about three hours by car. If you choose to use public transportation, you can take a JETT bus directly to Petra. There is a minibus that departs from Aqaba, although there is no schedule - it departs early in the morning from Wadi Musa towards Aqaba, and then returns from Aqaba when it is full, and so on. Some other options:

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More about Jordan

Travel to Jordan

We usually have one or two small groups (max 7/8 participants) per year travelling to Jordan. If you are interested in joining a group setting out from Europe, please drop me a line. We will provide more information, like dates, a program, and other details.

I organise and lead small groups to Jordan through my licensed travel agency "Thousand Voyages" Ltd. You can find out more about the guided tours here. A list of all scheduled tours can be found here.

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Most probably you would a need a visa. You can check out the procedure here.

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