Getting beyond the eyeliner 

In general, Americans are quick to judge individuals based upon their outward appearances. When meeting Sammy, a native bedouin from Petra, most individuals would be intimidated. Sammy has a short, slender stature, tanned skin, shoulder length black dreadlocks and dark beady eyes smeared with black coal eyeliner. That being said, many would be put off by his captain jack sparrow look and possibly would not take the time to go beyond his rugged appearance. 

 I met Sammy as I was exploring around some of the Petra ruins. He told me and those I was with about a beautiful overlook for sunset watching. After a long hike up to the overlook, Sammy met us up at the top. He then insisted giving us donkey rides up to the top of the Treasury. During our time together I asked Sammy about his life, experiences and his perspectives on the Bedouin life and culture.

In contrast to the other Jordanians I have met, Sammy was not born in a hospital, he was born in a cave. From his birth, he was defined and marked by what he calls “the simple Bedouin lifestyle.” Though I presume Sammy is in his mid-thirties, he has not left the confines of Petra more than a handful of times. He claims that places like Amman, which he has only visited one time, are far too crowded and busy. Sammy prefers the simple life guided by the moon and stars and engulfed in nature. 

 When I asked Sammy “If you had one piece of advice or a life lesson to share, what would it be?”. He responded, “Life is a journey and I am still learning. Everyday is a new experience full of learning.” During my short time with Sammy he mentioned the word “learning” various times and it is something he clearly values. However, Sammy has never had an organized education and explained that he never attended one day of school, not even as a child. So, Sammy cannot read or write yet he mentions the word learning more than many of my peers at my university. 

 Sammy reminds me that learning does not only occur inside a classroom yet also outside of it. He has picked up various languages from the tourists, including English and Italian. I actually had a conversation with him in Italian, one of my favorite languages. It was funny to think, an American and a Bedouin speaking together in Italian, of all languages. Though Sammy never received any formal education, he did explain that his sister is currently attending a university outside of Petra. 

Everyday Sammy wakes at dawn from his cave, where he lives and begins work at a nearby excavation sight until 1pm everyday. He has found various things in his site. He told me that he often finds small coins and treasures in the site which he precedes to put in his shoes for safekeeping. After his morning at the excavation site he typically rides around Petra meeting tourists and often invites them to a traditional bedouin dinner at night. When he needs groceries or food he simply rides his donkey through the rugged terrain to a nearby Bedouin village grocery store. He cooks his dinner over the open fire every night and drinks to the moonlight before he turns in for the night in his cool, dark cave.

For Sammy, like many Bedouins I presume, they do not understand the concept of time or being constrained by time. From my brief time with him, I noticed and marveled at the simple freedom of the Bedouin lifestyle. During my time walking and riding on Sammy’s donkey, I was taken aback by the sweet goats trotting along and the baby camels that would nestle against their mother’s warm bodies.

Sammy also told me about a writer who came and lived with his family last year in order to study the Bedouin life and culture. Sammy recounted the story of his writer friend with a soft smile, remembering how they taught the writer their specific Bedouin dialect and how to make their traditional coffee. Through my conversations with Sammy I realized that Bedouins, like all people are more than meets the eye.  

While some may see Bedouins as uneducated cave-dwellers who have rotting teeth, tattoo scribbles, and coal covered eyes, I see that they are more than what one may think. I know that many westerners and many Americans can learn much about life from the Bedouins. The Bedouins know how to live life in ways many Americans and city dwellers do not. They are not worshippers of time as many westerners are, they value relationships and notice the simple beauties in life. 

Stay true, live justly and always travel on. 

Peace and love. 


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