The Bedouin Tribes

Laura Fraser visits the Bedouin, tribes of desert nomads, in the Sinai Desert. She joins on a camel ride and shares insight into the culture in her article “Once upon a time in the Sinai desert” for Salon Travel.

“We approached the settlement tentatively, then saw other travelers camped there. We spoke to them and before long, a couple of Bedouin men in long, cotton jellabayas came over to build a fire and offer us tea. Iash, a lanky, bristly mustached man, poured the tea and gave me a cup.
I drank some and passed it along to my friend. No, he instructed me, it is the Bedouin custom that each has his own cup of tea, then the cup is swished with water, then the other has his. “Slowly, slowly.”

As primitive and impoverished as their huts of cardboard and spike ferns seemed to me, theirs was a culture with a highly refined sense of etiquette. We sat by the campfire, quietly, and watched the moon rise orange over the Red Sea.

After nightfall, one of the men brought out a guitar, playing a vibrating, metallic melody, while the others laughed and sang. We moved inside a big abandoned Israeli army bus lined with red blankets and sat cross-legged in a circle. The Bedouins passed around cans of grapefruit juice, big spliffs and a booklet of photos of the Egyptian president.”