I knew I was going to spend one night in a Bedouin Camp while visiting Israel, I just didn’t know what to expect. Our big tour bus, somewhat out of place, drove through the vast desert that went for miles each way you looked. It was in the distance I saw something like a mirage, an oasis, a camp lush in green palm trees and gardens sticking out like a sore thumb against the yellow sand of Judean desert. Exactly what I imagined a scene from Aladdin would be like in real life.
The Bedouins are an Arab semi-nomadic group who live in the deserts of Israel, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Once traveling with their camels and other animals in search of food and water, they now mostly live in settlements.
We were welcomed with a tea ceremony in one of the tents. The Bedouin host invited us inside and we drank spiced tea. He performed an ancient coffee making ritual, which included a traditional drumming and began to tell us stories, stories that were from another time of his desert dwelling people.
Before dinner, we were told all 40 of us would be sleeping in one giant tent. Too bad for those who are light sleepers. Mats and pillows were arranged in no organized manner, all forgetting we would have to find our way around in the darkness later that night.
Dinner was in another large tent. We all sat on the floor in groups of 5. As we sat down, Bedouin men emerged, carrying giant trays filled with amazing food that they placed in front of us. We were treated to a feast fit for a king, lamb, chicken, hummus, salad, and vegetables with rice, all eaten with our hands. The night ended with a campfire and sitting outside look up to the stars. Possibly the clearest sky I will ever see in my life.
Famed for their hospitality, staying just one night was a glimpse into how thousands of Bedouins live their lives. I feel privileged I was welcomed into their home, shared tea and a meal.
Herstory is a weekly column on women and travel by Steph Ridhalgh. Steph is a Sydney born; New York based television producer and travel blogger. Not one for being quiet for too long she simply loves talking about travel and lifestyle.
Steph is the founder of STEP(h) ABROAD, a travel and lifestyle resource for those who love to be in the know and know how.