Reportage I – People of Petra


Bedouins of Petra

by Marina Ferhatovic

Bob Marley music blasts from the speakers on one of the highest points of the ancient city of Petra. Just a few meters away, two Bedouins have set up a tent selling souvenirs and offering tea. One of them says: ”The sky is my blanket, the earth is my bed, the Bedouins are strong as the desert, move as the wind, soft as the sand,  forever free .”

A line to impress tourists or description of his life? It is hard to tell. The Bedouins have occupied the ancient city of Petra for a long time, living in caves and from what they can grow. However, in the mid-1980s, under the pressure from the government, the tribe agreed to move into a small village, Umm Sayhun, set on the edge of what is now designated as Petra National Park. Now, their main income comes from the herds of tourists that invade the ruins every day.

On my walk from one ruin to the other I meet Rawheyah, 60 years old Bedouin woman. Sheltered from the sun by a thin cloth stretched above her head she invites the passing tourists to take a look at her necklaces and other bijouterie. Not many do.

“More and more people come to visit Petra but not as many as we expected. We hope that there will be more during the summer”, she says. It is two in the afternoon and she has two more hours to go before she retreats to her home in the village.

But there are still those who see the ruins as their homes. Further up the hill I meet Ahmed, a 26 year old Beduoin who lives in a cave by the amphitheatre. He visits the “civilisation” every three days in order to get groceries and use the internet. His daily job consists of taking tourists to the “Monastery” on his donkeys and selling souvenirs. But the favourite part of the day is the evening when all the people leave: “We get together in front of the monastery, smoke sheeshas and watch the stars”, Ahmed says.

He tells me that there are around 60 families who choose this way of life. Sad development, in his opinion: “On one hand we have the government which wants to modernize the society and on the other we have the tourism. Between them our old way of life is disappearing.”

“There are mixed feelings. I myself live from the tourists. My brother owns a tourist agency in the town. And of course I want him to be successful.” One part he does like about the increasing tourism is the possibility to meet people and talk about the Bedouin culture. According to him many tourists choose to stay longer and some even permanently. “My brother met a Swiss girl here and now they have a child together.”

“With blue eyes”, he adds showing a picture in his valet of a little smiling boy.

The truth or a line? Hard to tell.


43 Responses to “Reportage I – People of Petra”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Marina, in the end your article turned out very well…i like the ending….i will always remember that day in Petra with all the EMAJ people. Like Nasry put it: In all our different ways we all had one same goal: reach the top of the 865 (or more) stairs! And we managed…a good start to the academy!

  2. Marina Says:

    Thank you Ruthie… Hate when I have good material and not enough time or energy to do it well. But considering that I wrote it during the lunch breake the last day, I am quite happy. Hope to do something bigger on these interesting people. Wanna live Bedouin life with me for a week? 🙂
    Nasry has a way of putting things, just goes straight to my heart.
    Let the 865 steps be a start for EMAJ 2009
    Hug to you my favourite language wonder

  3. Wadia Says:

    Very nice of putting it. I loved it…

    The ancient people and their way of life is very interesting to discover, especially if they are nomads. The transhumance is a way of living which is disappearing because of the new laws of visa and borders. As your quote said it clearly: ”The sky is my blanket, the earth is my bed, the Bedouins are warm as the desert and soft as the wind.” So these people are stuck in between.

    Next article of EMAJ 2009 will about whom?

  4. Bjoern Says:

    great piece! thanks, björn

  5. Randa Says:

    grea article Marina… way to go dear 😉

  6. Mohammed ali albedoull Says:

    Hi thanks for nice way you wrote us . . But i just want to tell you the right way of what is the bedoun . . It is strong as the desert move as the wind soft as the sand for ever free . . Thanks agen . .

  7. Marina Says:

    thanks mohammed, I love this the right one even better!

  8. im ahmad the one it the pic Says:

    im happy to her all thes rely.
    come it the monastery i liek to meet you
    my mobail 00962796190243

  9. im ahmad the one it the pic Says:

    if youcome you will stay with me in my cave in petra muonten

  10. Andrea Albedoull Says:

    Thanks for such a great article; I just wanted to complete the family commentary – I’m the Swiss girl. and we actually do have a little boy Swiss Bedouin boy
    I can’t think of a bette place in the world to live; watching the sun set over Monastery from our balcony is beyond priceless.

  11. Marika Says:

    …. sometimes life, when you dont’ expect, give you a gift… I went to Petra to discover a part of Jordan and I discovered the real part of Jordan: the people… This was the gift I received.
    I’ll never forget the “forever free” I met during my journey and the nights in the mountains in Petra and in Wadi Araba. My memories are now sweet as your tea and will warm my heart during the cold nights in Europe.
    I’m sure that “civilization” never change your mind.

  12. ahmad im Says:

    im happy to her thes
    any one come and stay

  13. Lyn Says:

    I wonder if any of you have read ‘Married to a Bedouin’ by Marguerite van Geldersmalsen? Yes, a Kiwi woman (ex Dutch) came on holidays to Petra, married the man of her dreams and shared his cave for years.

  14. nawaf petra Says:

    hi thear

  15. fatima al faqeer Says:

    it’s a very nice articl want to thank you and say hi to ahmad and tieseer who are in the photo and to all the bedouins in petra i miss you all
    fatima ,france

  16. jessica Says:

    the proverb is as soo strong that you may let yourself flow with it…
    i dont how petra is a mix of all kind of beauties and nature ,…
    wishing to go back!

  17. Alice Says:

    I live here onother vision about bedouins in Petra, this is an important newpaper in Jordan.

  18. Anonymous Says:


  19. Anonymous Says:

    and another vision….when you Google for “scammers in wadi musa”

  20. lonely Says:

    nice story but this is not write news

  21. Mandy Says:

    Less than 3 weeks ago …I was riding Hamed the Horse from Little Petra to Wadi Araba, under the excellent guidance of Mohammed Ali, culinary artist ‘Different’ Kesh ; )) and Hamoud of Bedouin Discovery. A discovery it was….my 5th visit and this time….I really DID have a great time…thanks guys! It was magnificent.

  22. cene Says:

    hi . just i need to say . one thing no any one his Bedouin any more and all the ar Holmes and all what the looking for it just many sex from women ……. i been there and i toking with them about that and that what the tell me . so sorry cozy i say that troth …
    see u

  23. Nina Says:

    In 2012 I was in holliday in Jordan and I meet a bedouin boy in Petra. I was in love because he was so nice. We talk on skype and talk mobile all time. I go back to petra and was wit him and do sex wit him. I go home and he call fore money now. I no think he love me. I trie to find him on internet but I only find his name on facebook page. I write message to page and they write me back and told me about him and the boy busines in petra. He have more girlfriend and they find one xgirlfrind I talk to. I fell bad now. But have help from other now. If you want help write to…90518707632478 They are nice and you can trust and they try to stop boys from petra. I hope to stop other girls but I not to share my boy name. My boy is in this list of boy do this: Eamad, Ghassab, Khaled Albdoul, Athman Salm, Othman Salm, Ahmed Alfaquer, Alfaqeer, Alfageer, Alfakeer, Mohammed Alfaquer, Alfaqeer, Alfageer, Alfakeer, Mohammed Albdoul, Albdool, Bdool, Bdoul, Mohammed Ali, Ahmed known as Johnny Depp and Hamza Abdulmotaleb Mohammed Al Hasanat. I sorry for my bad english. Hope you don’t be stupid like me.

  24. Phillip Says:

    The Bedouin business keeps on going, so still be aware of the Bedouin boys from Petra.
    These stories have been going on for years. The stories about the Bedouin scammers from Wadi Musa and the Bedouins from the village by Petra are still current.
    New boys are being taught the bezness from older guys who have been doing this for years.

    The boys are still doing this and still the tourist companies, tourist police or government don’t warn people! Actually a lot of people have tried to warn others about this business for many years, but every time the warnings show up at tourist pages they are quickly removed again. It’s all about money. I know it maybe will sounds silly, but it is a conspiracy.
    At this moment I don’t know if it is the tourist companies, the government of Jordan or who the f*** who is trying to cover it up, but it’s SURE that someone want nobody to know about this.
    Actually the government of Jordan and the police close all electricity to the Bedouin village when the Bedouins have behaved badly (when a tourist makes a complaint). They try to control them, but they took away their land and their caves, so they are not interested in a fight. They try to control them without them knowing. They gave them houses in the Bedouin village after taking Petra from them! They know how far they can push the line.
    But they never ever warn tourists about this, because Petra is 1 of the new 7 wonders and that means MONEY! They will do everything to cover up this stories.. If people knew, – it would have financial and economic impact! That is why you have to look hard to find them online. Someone is cleaning up!
    I’m moving into dangerous territories. I know that I now have to be afraid. I just don’t understand how tourist companies have the knowledge about this and choose to do nothing. Are they forced to keep quiet by the same gun that made Petra one of the new 7 wonders?
    Only their gun will make us quiet!
    Take a look of the page. They are talking about a lot of Petra bedouin boys besides the ones they know Eamad, Awwad, Ghassab, Khaled Albdoul, Athman Salm, Ahmed Al faqeer, Mohammed Al faqeer, Mohammed Ali Albdoul and Ahmed known as Johnny Depp. The list is long! See all and comment on the page, because this is going directly to the tourist companies and the Jordan government when their covering up will be well argued by us without them telling us to shut up!

  25. Aresa Says:

    It is important to make this clear.
    The “Bedouin” are not only the people that lived in Petra and were moved to Uhm Sayhoun. These folks are the Bdul Bedouin and work inside Petra (after the Siq). There also the “Bedouin” from Wadi Musa. Well, they call themselves “Bedouin”. The people from Uhm Sayhoun disagree with that and call the Wadi Musa folks “fellahin”, which means farmer, as they own all the land surrounding Uhm Sayhoun and therefore cannot expand, for example, to build more houses.

    The reason why I find this important to distinguish, is because the names mentioned on the FB page “Stop the Petra Bedouin Women Scammers” are mostly guys from Uhm Sayhoun. And it is not fair to brand only them as being bezness scammers, as there are plenty of Wadi Musa families(!) who are also involved in scamming female tourists.
    Members of the Mashaleh and Hasanat being the most well known for this. The Wadi Musa guys ride the horses from the entrance to the Siq (and are not permitted inside Petra) and they are just as much targeting female tourists to lure them into a fake “true love romance”, to get donations. Both the guys from Uhm Sayhoun and from Wadi Musa are equally involved and gain a lot of money through their criminal behaviour.
    And to people thinking or saying “oh this can happen all over the world”.Yes fine. But this is not about the world, this is about Petra, Jordan, where it is a WELL KNOWN BUT WELL HIDDEN SECRET. And to other people thinking or saying that “the women come to Petra, for sex and what they give, they give freely” are ignorant and seriously underestimating the bezness phenomenon.
    I have no doubt there will be women that go on holiday and want to have some “fun” and a “fling” and have no problem with sexual encounters. But I am convinced this is a very small group. Most women who travel alone or with friends, come to Jordan because they are sincerely interested in the culture, the people and the country. It is precisely these women who are targeted by the guys from Wadi Musa and Uhm Sayhoun. And most of the time they succeed getting the attention of their target so they can “work” on her with the objective to get – and in this order! – (i) financial donations and (ii) sex. The woman smothered with compliments and affection, believes the guy has a genuine interest in her. She has no idea that she is being exploited with no mercy. She does give “freely”, she wants to help out, like she would probably do in her home country too: help those in need. But the guy has no real need, the disasters (deaths, illnesses, pain, etc) he tells her about are all lies. It is a very clever game, for which the guys have years and years of practice. They do it day in, day out. It is their job! As an outsider looking in, it is too easy to blame the women. You did not walk in their shoes.

    I agree that this HIDDEN SECRET should be exposed. And should be stopped. The authorities of Petra Park, the local government needs to do something about this. They know very well that it is happening on a large scale. Women report to them about it and they do NOTHING.

  26. mahm Says:

    Beware of the Jordan Bedouin bezness.
    All the boys from the bedouin village by Petra, Wadi Musa, Wadi Rum are scammers and liars!
    Eamad, Ghassab, Khaled Albdoul, Athman Salm, Ahmed Alfaqeer, Mohammed Alfaqeer, Mohammed Ali Albdoul and Ahmed Bedouin Petra known as Johnny Depp.
    Their business is to fool and cheat all the girls they can into falling in love with them.
    They do it for business – to get money and sex.
    They often have 2-5 foreign girlfriends at the same time. Their family knows and lies as well. All the “nice” people you meet lie! They all lie for each other because they all want something… Gifts, sex, money, phone, computer, cloths, gasoline, a donkey, even camels…The money they get from girls they use to get other girls.
    They will make you believe that they are different from the others and you will see the love in their eyes. But it is not true! Don’t ever trust them! They are all the same. They do anything to fool you!
    They will take you to caves in the mountains, to the most beautiful views, they will make fire and cook for you, take you to their family, dance, drink, watch the sunset and sunrise on a blanket under the ‘shooting stars’.
    They do business with girls! They go with tourists and then they charm the girls to believe that they are in love with them. The truth is that they just want sex. When the girl goes back home, they will make friends with her on facebook, messenger, skype, email or phone. They are on all social media and have a lot of different accounts and names, so all the girls they trick don’t know about all the other girls. They will try to get you to come back to Jordan. And if you go back – they will pick you up in the airport or hotel, but when you leave they go pick up the next girl or a new tourist. If you had sex with one of them please go to your doctor and get tested for all sex diseases (HIV, Chlamydia, gonorrhoea etc..) and Hepatitis B. They are whores, gigolos, scammers, trick thieves and they have sex with all possible. It is like trick rape, so don’t ever think that is true that a Bedouin boy from Petra loves you or want to marry you!
    They will all tell you that you are special and that they love you, but also tell you lies about that their donkey died, their car is broke, their motorbike was stolen, they have to go to the hospital, someone complained about them so they have to go to jail. They often pretend to get into trouble and want you to send money through Western Union. They come up with the craziest stories – Only to get the money from you!!
    They look like Johnny Deep (Jack Sparrow), most of them have kohl in their eyes, wear scarf’s or have long hair. If you are with your husband or boyfriend they will fool him too, they will let you believe you are his best friend but also try to fuck your wife or girlfriend!
    Names of boys doing this for fulltime business (with variations of their names): Eamad, Ghassab, Khaled Albdoul, Athman Salm, Othman Salm, Mohammad, Ahmed Alfaquer, Alfaqeer, Alfageer, Alfakeer, Mohammed Alfaquer, Alfaqeer, Alfageer, Alfakeer, Mohammed Albdoul, Albdool, Bdool, Bdoul, Mohammed Ali and Ahmed known as Johnny Deep (but they are not the only ones). They are all the same.. All the boys, men, girls, women and kids in the village is making business and living by cheating tourists.
    And you will believe every lie they tell.. They are really good at this business!!
    There are thousands of stories from girls around the world who experienced this, but-
    The government in Jordan knows about this problem but they don’t do anything about it!
    The police know about this problem and should warn all tourists especially in hotels, in Wadi Musa and around the main gate to Petra about these people, but they don’t.
    The embassy and the airport of Amman and Aqaba should warn all women who come, and especially the women that come more than one time, but they don’t!
    Jordan is the ‘peace’ safe country in the Middle East, so they don’t want to destroy that image for the rest of the world.
    It is also good for the Jordanian economy that all these girls keeps coming and it is very bad for tourism if the world knew the truth about the secrets of beautiful Wadi Rum and Petra.
    Join our new group that wants to stop this and tell your story – Share the names and the lies:
    We understand if you want to be anonymous, so create a new anonymous facebook account (like they do!) and join the group. Together we will open this story to the world and try to get the authorities in Jordan to warn about this and stop it!

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  29. mama Says:

    ef u have sex with money in petra and bay houses for time bad in the end u writ abut the i thing it your problems
    but u have bin many time to the bedouin man were you give him the many even he have bedouin waif with boy now.i thing oll tours women how have bin in this way the are the problem Nat the bedouin boys or u ran from the Mantilla hospitals or u don’t have mans to fuck u in yours homes
    but u will have,it ef u want .it

  30. mama Says:

    Marina u fuck with bedouin many time and u are with bedouin and u bey money for him to go withe u to Spanish

    • Marina Says:

      Hello! I am the author of this text written back in 2008, my first trip to MENA ever. I spent a few hours there and met some nice people which are quoted in the interview. Not sure what has happened since in the area but it could be interesting to investigate. I am glad that people have kept commenting although some comments are generally disturbing. Not sure about the warnings for Bedouin boys, have never experienced it. But as in all poor societies there are scams of this kind, no need to demonize the entire Bedouin community.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Nothing has changed since 2008 or before 2008. Manipulating female tourists into false relationships (3 or more at a time) to gain financially and materially from them, has been going on for years on a very large scale. Those Bedouin guys you met? They are part of it too.

    Here are some observations of a German guy who lived in Uhm Sayhoun.

    And no, of course you have not experienced it. You spent a few hours talking to the charming bedouin boys.

    The community of Wadi Musa and Uhm Sayhoun THAT WORK INSIDE PETRA OR WITH TOURISTS are indeed demonized. Rightfully as far I am concerned.

    Pointing out that it happens in ALL poor societies, is downplaying a serious matter and criminal behaviour.
    Your article is about Petra. The postings are about Petra, not about ALL poor societies. And the fact that it does happen in a lot of tourist places in the world, does not mean it is okay. It is NOT.
    And you will be surprised to know that the poverty you see is not as bad as it seems. In particular in Wadi Musa. Seen the big jeeps, the mobiles, the laptops, the fancy clothes?
    Uhm Sayhoun-ers yes, they are less fortunate. Nevertheless, that does not mean it is okay to deliberately and with malicious intent cheat female tourists out of everything they own, leaving (some of) them psychologically damaged.

    Of course, the bedouins (along with a few uneducated western women that live in one of the villages and married a bedouin) will say the female tourists go freely with them and the female tourists give freely. True, they didn’t hold a gun against these women’s heads. But they were not told: “hey, I am charming your socks off and falling in love with you, and I want you to meet my family who are part of my scamming game. When you return to your country I am going to tell you how much I miss you and love you every thime we speak on the phone. You will return to Jordan soon again and we lovers will have such a romantic time together. You will be paying for everything. Then back in your country, I will phone you to tell you a very sad fairy tale lie, about my horse that is very ill, and that I can’t pay for a vet and I can’t work inside Petra now. That I need about 500 JD. I will make the story worse until you offer to help me and send me money through Western Union. I will talk about our future together, make plans with you, and you will return to Jordan again. Of course I will work my way to persuade you to bring me: a new mobile, and a video camera. When you leave, I will have another woman coming to see me in Jordan. Then one day you will find out and start asking critical questions. That is the time to ditch you. I am fine with that, cause I have 2 other women that I love and they love me and send me money too.”

    It is a hidden secret and a very well kept secret, that everybody knows and nobody talks about. Only to be disguised through sharp observation or the hard way. Even the police and local authorities are aware, but do nothing when female tourists report to them.

    So it is very necessary to spread the word, to create awareness and to warn (naive) female travellers not to fall for their crap. Besides the fact that they are screwing up the reputation of Petra and Wadi Musa, they are damaging the females emotionally and financially, who were convinced they were in a serious, committed relationship. Until they found out that they’ve been had. Big time.

    @mama You are right. There are women that come to Petra to get what you guys offer: sex. That makes you gigolo cavemen, right? I have seen you young 22 year old boys, hitting on 50 year old women. The age of your mother! Are you guys muslims or sharmutas?
    Remember: there is also a very large group of women that come to experience your country, the culture and the people. They are sincere and interested to see Petra and to learn about your life. Treat them as you treat your sister.

  32. Women lover Says:

    its so easy why all of you angry the woman she come for sex she find it.
    if she don’t wan’t no one puch her enjoy your stay
    when u visit petra just take care of your bussy and your ass no one will rip u

    • انت كلب Says:

      @Womenlover, who is angry? Nobody.
      The women do not come for sex. They come to see Petra and Jordan. You bedouin shalaga people of Petra are greedy, all the day looking for women, smiling and flirting, to get one thing. JD’s. JD’s. JD’s.
      You people are muslim. You people are bedouin. And you are shaming the good muslim bedouin. Stop stealing money. Keep your pants on. Ila an sharafak, gahbeh.

  33. juliatigina Says:

    Keep Yourself Away From Wadi Rum!
    Complain on Mosa Saleah Al-Zalabeih (Wadi Rum, Jordan)

    It is a very sad story that took place with me in Wadi Rum. It is unbelievable that such a thing can still happen in the 21st century.
    On January 1, 2014 I crossed the Israeli border with the only wish to spend a couple of days in a magnificent desert of Wadi Rum. At 1 pm Mosa Saleah Al-Zalabeih, – the owner of Wadi Rum Galaxy Camp, – to whom I came to work as a volunteer, came to pick me up. He was not just cute on that day. He was incredibly handsome. I fell in love with him from the very first moment. He seemed to feel the same. He was smiling and looked happy.
    On the way to Wadi Rum, I was feeling how this beautiful desert was putting magic on me. Everything was so familiar, as though I had been living there before. I was more than sure that it would be the right place to create a family and to stay for life.
    After 4 months (on May 13, 2014) I came back to Wadi Rum and we got married.
    The first weeks that I spent with his mother were not really happy. The family was very poor and lived in terrible conditions. No kitchen, no shower, no bed linen, – nothing. Children slept on the sand and very often there was no food at all. When the school year got over and all the crowd left to the desert, I was left alone. Mosa locked me in a small dirty room which I shared with mice. He didn’t allow me to speak with anyone and controlled all my steps. I was kept like a slave in a jail. Very often he forgot about me and I had to stay hungry, without food and any means of communication. Through lie, sweet words and sometimes pressure my husband managed to take all my money. He scammed absolutely everything I had. When there was nothing else to take, he decided to throw me away like a trash. He never treated me like a wife. He didn’t spend a JD on me. No house, no food, nothing.
    All the family knew that there was something wrong, but did noting. No one came to visit me or to ask whether I need anything. It seemed that Mosa waited for my death from starving. Then he would bury the body and sign with relief.
    When Mosa decided to get rid of me, I managed to survive only thanks to the family, who found me. They brought me to their home, gave food and clothing. During 2 weeks the family took care of me. Thanks to them I went to the Tourist Police, wrote a complain on my husband and returned all the money. I had to put him into the jail, but under the pressure of the family I agreed not to do it. I was very sick and tired. The only wish I had was to return the money and to go back to my home.
    Wadi Rum is the worst place you can choose to come. People lie here and treat foreigners very badly. The last time scamming is growing so rapidly in this region. In the police I was told that my case unfortunately was not the first one in Wadi Rum.
    My husband treated me so badly. He lied to me from the very first day I know him. He made me leave my job and country. He made me take Islam. He organized a fake wedding in the village to make me believe that I will stay for life with him. After he scammed me for 4100 JD, I was needed no more. He threw me away like a trash. Only thanks to my complain that I wrote in the Tourist Police, I managed to return all the money and finally to come back to my country.
    Sorry to say, but Wadi Rum, like Petra, has become a platform for scamming. People forgot their real values. Traditions and religion are dying here. Money has taken their place.

  34. Ana Says:

    Marina, da li je pala neka romansa?

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