adventure travel & photography
Destinations: Pakistan ◦◦ India ◦◦Turkey ◦◦ Egypt ◦◦ Bulgaria ◦◦ Mongolia ◦◦ Bangladesh ◦◦ Jordan ◦◦ Russia ◦◦ Turkmenistan ◦◦ Iran ◦◦ Kazakhstan ◦◦ Japan ◦◦ Hong Kong ◦◦ Greece ◦◦ Ukraine ◦◦ Syria ◦◦ Morocco ◦◦ Italy ◦◦ Mauritania ◦◦ Oman ◦◦ Algeria ◦◦ Faroe Islands
Tours/Expeditions: List with all our scheduled tours and expeditions
I have visited Petra multiple times, including as a small group leader. Initially, the archaeological excavations were the most captivating aspect of the trips. On my last visit, however, I began to observe the local people - men, women and children - who congregated in front of the ancient caves and monuments, selling souvenirs or riding donkeys. These were the members of the B'doul tribe.
I wanted to learn more about the people of Petra, but I was more intrigued by their photographic representation: their faces, activities, clothing, and presence in the ruins. Without them, Petra would be just a museum; beautiful and exciting, but lifeless.
The B'doul tribe inhabited the caves of Petra until the 1980s. They claim to be descended from the Nabataeans, who lived in the region during the end of the Roman Empire. However, researchers have been unable to verify this relationship due to a lack of research and unreliable data.
After World War I, Emir Abdullah, who ruled Transjordan after the war, met with Bedouin sheikhs in 1923. He asked them to declare their territorial claims to Petra and the surrounding area and to pay taxes. Since the Bedouins had no money, they agreed to cede the land to the state in exchange for a guarantee of their livelihood. This meant the land around Petra no longer belonged to them.
After Petra was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in the mid-1980s, many B'doul Bedouins were forced to abandon their semi-nomadic lifestyle and move to the newly built Um Saihun settlement near Petra. Here, they live today and go to Petra daily to work as guides or provide local entertainment, music, and transportation by camels and donkeys. It appears that they still feel a strong connection to the place and some still cling to the Bedouin life and customs in the ancient valley.
Some Bedouins are incredibly knowledgeable and speak excellent English. I was surprised by one of our local guides, whose English was particularly impressive.
Unfortunately, Petra has many working children who sell souvenirs along ancient paths. Many of them have to leave school to help their parents.
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.
Petra is easy to visit independently. Travellers flying to Queen Alia International Airport, 30 minutes from Amman, can reach Petra by car in about three hours. Alternatively, they can take a JETT bus directly to Petra. There is also a minibus that departs from Aqaba, but without a set schedule. It leaves Wadi Musa early in the morning and returns from Aqaba when full.
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 organize 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.