That Time I Fed Pork To A Bedouin
I peel back the heavy woven door to my tent and stumble outside, into the still night of the Wadi Rum desert. Wait, night? It is SO bright outside. My watch has to be wrong; it can’t be 2:30 am.
But, if it’s day, then where is the sun? I can see my shadow, so it’s gotta be lurking around here somewhere. What’s that big white thing in the sky? The moon?
Turns out I was looking at my own MOON SHADOW.
So cool. The thought that the moon could cast shadows had, like a nice + hot + tall guy who’s also employed, seemed beyond the realm of possibilities.
Soon forgetting my initial mission of visiting the camp outhouse, I quickly ran back and grabbed my camera.
I guess if I were going to see moon shadows anywhere, it would be in the Wadi Rum desert in southern Jordan. Wadi Rum, made famous by the movie “Lawrence of Arabia,” means “The Valley of the Moon” in Arabic .
Though I’ve never seen “Lawrence of Arabia” (a total Dad movie, if you ask me), my travel companion, Claire, and I had wanted to stay at least one night with the Bedouin in this beautiful desert. We chose the aptly named Full Moon Desert Camp for its
good reviews location cheap price. We didn’t know much about it, so we feel like we lucked out.
We traveled to the desert by taxi after our wonderful visit to Petra. We were picked up at the entrance to the desert by our fabulous Bedouin guide and host, Tyseer, and were driven about 15 minutes to the camp.
The desert is a stunning 280 square miles of sandstone, granite rock, and camels.
Though normally opposed to the term, “stark beauty,” I’m going to have to use it here. The landscape was striking red, with stacked stone structures of the Seuss variety – almost Mars-like.
(Previously, I thought this was a clever and creative description; imagine my disappointment when I learned that this desert served as the set of the movie “Red Planet.” If you want to visit the Valley of the Moon and use similarly cliched phrases to describe it, you could easily find cheap tickets — do it!)
There are several Bedouin camps scattered throughout the Wadi Rum desert. They provide a steady income for the owners, and allow travelers a unique glimpse into the Bedouin way of life. Win-win.
Bedouin means “inhabitant of the desert,” and refers to a group of semi-nomadic, tribal, Arab people that live throughout the Middle East.
Upon arrival at our Bedouin camp, we settled in to our traditional goat-hair tent. It was very simple, and very desert-y. The bedding was extremely dusty. I know, I know; we were in the desert. But, these things had not been washed since the Spice Girls’ last performance (and I’m not talking the reunion tour).
I’m only sharing this fact because I really wanted to post this hilar pic of Claire — and her aversion to flesh touching the sheets. Not sure why that always makes you feel better about creepy bedding, but it does, doesn’t it?!
Our hosts were lovely, and the views spectacular, however, so we soon forgot about the suspect sheets.
After some requisite jumpy photos and a nice long girl chat in the shadows of the setting sun (could we be more predictable?), we gathered around the fire for some Bedouin grub and entertainment.
The food was yummy, and the music fun. Then, horror of horrors, they turned to Claire and me.
“Your turn!” said Tyseer, with a grin.
Not exactly known for our musical talents, we…. panicked.
The only song that we could think of that included no notes too high or low, and that we knew all the words to, was the Pink Pajamas song.
Yellow Submarine? Twinkle Twinkle? Jingle Bells? Why none of these songs popped into our heads, I’ll never know.
Why, you ask, was this not an ideal choice? I’ll just go ahead and share the lyrics with you. (Keep in mind that the Bedouin are, for the most part, quite conservative and devoutly Muslim.)
“I wear my pink pajamas in the summer when it’s hot. I wear my pink pajamas in the winter when it’s not. And sometimes in the springtime and sometimes in the fall, I jump between the sheets with nothing on at all. Glory, glory, hallelujah! Glory, glory, what’s it to ya? Feel the breeze that’s running right through ya… with NOTHING ON AT ALL!”
Yeahhhh. Not exactly traditional Bedouin fodder.
But, our hosts were still smiling when we finished. That means they didn’t get it. Or they were just being polite. I was hoping for the former.
And, any musical inappropriateness would soon be forgotten by goof numero dos.
A sweet Scottish girl had brought along marshmallows, thinking that it might be fun to roast them on the Bedouins’ fire. Our hosts had never eaten marshmallows before, so she was excited to share.
I forewent my normal roasting technique (light on fire, then blow out — who has the patience for anything different?) to roast a beautiful golden marshmallow for one of our Bedouin hosts. After perfecting it, I handed it to him. He was the first to try one, and he seemed to enjoy it.
As we continued roasting, one of the Bedouins asked what marshmallows are made of. Sugar? Air? Magic? Pssshhh. Who thinks about that stuff?
Unsure, the Scottish girl picked up the bag and began to read the ingredients.
Sugar, water, PORK GELATIN.
Immediately, the playful air turned to stone. Did someone just say pork?
OMG, I JUST FED PORK TO A BEDOUIN. I AM BANISHED TO HELL. OR, WORSE, THE WADI RUM DESERT. AT NIGHT. ALONE.
(In case you don’t understand why this is a big deal, maybe you should try reading a book at some point. They’re pretty cool. Oh, also, it is forbidden for Muslims to eat pork or pork products.)
The Bedouin gentleman to whom I had just handed my mallow masterpiece turned as pale as a Bedouin could. He had been the only one to sample one so far, and yours truly had fed it to him.
Bad news bears.
He immediately grabbed the bag, and my only thought was: wow, the only time in history that somebody didn’t want s’more s’mores. I thought about trying that one out to lighten the mood, but thankfully my brain stepped in and took control of my tongue.
He stormed away, looking as though he was about to puke.
The awkwardest of awkward silences ensued.
Then, a little Indian man, who had refrained from sharing a song earlier, stepped in to save the day. He said, “I’d like to recite my poem now.” Thank sunshine for little Indian men.
I have no idea what the poem was, or what language it was in, but it was one the most beautiful things I have ever heard.
I felt awful. Not as bad as the Scottish girl looked, but I had been the mallow messenger. I knew how important religion is to my host, and I had unknowingly helped him to break a central tenet.
Though it hadn’t been on purpose, it wasn’t anything I was proud of, and definitely something I wished I could take back.
We soon went to bed, and though I was a bit scared to emerge the next morning, all seemed to have been forgotten.
After all, the Bedouins are famous for their hospitality and manners, and apparently, this was one ignorant oops they could forgive.
So, lesson of the day, kiddos: don’t feed marshmallows to Bedouins! And, pork gelatin is lurking everywhere.
What would you have done in this situation? Have you ever made a similar cultural flub?
My bedouin experience was entertaining and educational, though I don’t know if I would care to repeat it. If I do, I will know to have a wholesome song prepared, and a slew of pork-free snacks to share. I’d recommend Full Moon Dessert Camp – the food was good, and the hosts were gracious. Just maybe bring a sleeping bag. Due to a shocking shortage of laundromats in the desert, I doubt the sheets will be any cleaner when you go.
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