“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.
“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.
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.