Day 2 of  The A to Z  Blogging Challenge

“B is for Bedouin” 

Rocks from the arid desert jostle against the wheels of our 4 x 4. A layer of steam clings to the dust and air, making us choke. We arrive when we see an Arabic sign, scrawled in thick, black script, “Sa’ad Village.”

“It’s a historic day. We are the first invited guests to the village of Sa’ad by my Bedouin friends—my brothers and sisters,” declares Innocenta.

Earlier, she had studied the Bedouin way of life by living among the group. Doing so established strong friendships and an “in” to the group. 

Inocenta, a Spaniard, is our "in" with the Sa'ad bedouin tribe
Inocenta, a Spaniard, is our “in” with the Sa’ad Bedouin tribe

Marhaba!” The sheikh repeats his welcome to show his Arabian hospitality. Innocenta greets an older woman, kissing cheeks several times as is customary. She waves and motions us to come.

The sheikh and the village men stand  in a line to welcome us. Our western men shake hands with them, too embarrassed to greet in the local manner – the same way women do, with kisses. We women do not touch the Bedouin men at all. 

Other village women begin to arrive covered from head to toe in their sheylas and abiyas—traditional black head scarves and long, black garments worn as proof of their modesty.

They bustle around and shortly, we sit on canvas tarp munching dates and sipping strong Arabic coffee, heavily-laced with cardamom. It tastes bitter, with a hint of black liquorish.

The coffee, or “gahwa,” as it’s called, is served from a special brass pot with a long, narrow spout found only in the Emirates and is poured into small glass cups.

East and west convene while a Bedouin musician (right) plays the "rahab," a traditional instrument.
East and west convene while a Bedouin musician (right) plays the “simsimiyya” a traditional instrument.

The elder issues a sharp order. Two young girls cart out some home-churned cheese made from goat’s milk. It tastes like cottage cheese except sweeter because it contains fresh honey. It looks thick, white and soupy.

The traditional way of eating is to tear off a piece of round bread, wrap it around a date and dip it in a shared bowl of the cheese. it seems warm and friendly.

After we sample the cheese, the women bring out apples, oranges and bananas. As we eat the fruit, a musician plays a traditional harp-like instrument called a simsimiyya,

Innocenta moves among the Bedouins with ease. She looks more like a Bedouin woman than a Spanish psychologist / cultural anthropologist working on a western college campus. In time, she consults with the chieftain. I notice none of the Bedouin women participates in the discussion. Innocenta, alone, bears that privilege.

Granted the status of western professional as well as beloved sister adopted into the tribe, she enjoys more freedom than the other Bedouin women. “Our visit to Sa’ad Village has come to an end,” she said. 

Th village boys hand out pieces of freshly-slaughtered lamb and goat in clear, plastic bags and we leave with instructions to prepare it and an unforgettable experience.

What are your favorite ethnic dishes? 

You have just read “B is for Bedouin,” by Amy L. Bovaird. © Copyright April 2, 2015.  You can see who else is participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge HERE.

B is for Bedouin
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24 thoughts on “B is for Bedouin

  • April 2, 2015 at 4:23 am

    Good work on all of the keywords. So helpful!!! Maybe I need some sort of language course to get through this. Haha. Popped over quickly to check out this challenge. Just a quick tippitty-tip:
    try to keep the posts this month to the word count suggestion. Some of us are trying to read as many of these as possible, and comments quickly. It’s just a mite bit tough for us to wade through all of the great work when we feel like we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. You get the picture. Wink! Wink! 😉 🙂 Write on. And remember: when in doubt, cut it OUT :). Also, proofread to your little heart’s content.


  • April 2, 2015 at 5:37 am

    Thanks, AG!
    So glad you stopped by to check out my blog and read about my Bedouin experience!
    Hope to see you again!

  • April 2, 2015 at 7:29 am

    How lovely to learn about these traditions, Amy! When we read about “bedouins” in story books it all seemed to exotic – still is! Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful experience. I am loving the idea of wrapping the bread around the date! 🙂 Happy A to Z-ing. I am here via the Ultimate Blog Challenge group on Facebook!

  • April 2, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    So glad that you liked it, Vidya!
    They had another type of cheese, too. It’s called “gibna arrabiya.” It looks like rabbit pellets and tastes salty. I had to leave that part out because it was already too long!
    Thanks so much for reading!

  • April 2, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    So glad you enjoyed it, Mary!
    Come back for a glimpse into a South American city.

  • April 2, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    This is so interesting! I wish I had time and money to go experience all these things. At least I can live vicariously through your posts.

  • April 2, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Carol!
    I agree with you. I also find it fascinating to get beyond the “touristy” stuff and to see the way a real group interacts and lives. It was an amazing opportunity!
    Come back for more stories of life and people abroad!

  • April 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    Hi Carrie,
    Your words are so encouraging! My goal is to invite you to journey along with me in a smattering of glimpses into other cultures. Then, when my book comes out (Fading Light), you’ll get to discover the bigger picture in an armchair along with me! Can’t wait until I finish it!

  • April 2, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Hello Amy, nice to meet you. I love learning about various cultures. Very Interesting.

  • April 3, 2015 at 1:23 am

    Hi Cathrina,
    Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • April 3, 2015 at 4:19 am

    Amy, I am so enjoying your series of adventures. The pictures you include and the way you’ve formatted using boldface and regular text, add to the ease of reading. Not too long at all. In fact, just right!

  • April 3, 2015 at 5:57 am

    What a fantastic and personal experience. I really loved this post, for a lot of reasons. We went to a Bedouin camp, but it was one arranged by our guide, and much too commercial to really get the experience you did. Also, I enjoyed both your writing style and how your photos helped to tell the story. I am a new follower.

  • April 3, 2015 at 7:10 am

    Amy, this is so fun. I love that I get to go with you on your journeys.

  • April 3, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Hi Rhonda,
    So so glad you are taking time to follow me in my travels! Marhaba! (Welcome!)
    I’m glad that you can relate on a first-hand basis to Bedouins even though your experience was a little too commercial for your liking.
    Thank you for your compliment on my writing style and photos!

  • April 3, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    Hey Tonia,
    Glad you enjoyed this leg of my journey!

  • April 3, 2015 at 6:26 pm


    What an adventure that was! The cheese sounded delicious. You asked what our favorite ethnic dishes are? Sadly, I must confess that I don’t venture too far away from spaghetti, pizza, bologna, cheese, and mustard. Oh yeah, and oodles of noodle! But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try something different. The next time I go get my senior coffee at McDonalds, I’m tempted to ask them for a cup of “gahwa.” I learned some new words today. Look out!

    Take Care,


  • April 3, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Ha ha! Matt, I can just see that now…! We’ll have to try out a good coffee shop with a barrista that creates designs in the foam when making good coffee! It’ll be fun!

  • April 5, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    This travel themed A to Z challenge is keeping me looking forward to checking out your blog every day, pretty much, all month long.
    Love your stories. Such an intimate glimpse into the culture of a place.
    The only issue with the AtoZ is how many posts there are and people think they need to get through as many as possible. This isn’t possible, if you have anything else to do with your day. I saw this same issue with the #1000Speak blogging project I have been taking part in lately. Don’t feel like you have to make your posts a certain short length, just to fit in with the program.
    Your readers enjoy coming to hear your unique point of view.
    Coffee, cheese, and fruit. Sounded like a lovely combination.

  • April 5, 2015 at 11:30 pm

    Hi Kerry,
    Figured you’d like it. 🙂 I’m finding out exactly what you mean. It takes all my time to comment and / or write. I decided to just find some writers that I like and follow them. I’m following travel writers.
    Thank you for following me. It’s a privilege to have you reading my words. And It’s pretty fun looking through my albums.
    Take care,

  • April 8, 2015 at 5:01 am

    Thank you, Mary!
    So glad I could share this groundbreaking Bedouin visit with you.
    Stop back again!

  • April 9, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Hi Corinne,
    Thank you for taking time to read about the Bedouins. That was an exciting opportunity! I’ve always wanted to send an article out to National Geographic or another such magazine. I have enough photos. My complete article is about 1500 words! So glad you liked it!

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