Overlooking PetraWelcome to Petra; the ancient city located in the middle eastern Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The Bedoul tribes of bedouin have lived in and around Petra for six generations and consider themselves the guardians and protectors of Petra.

The Nabataean people lived and ruled in this region of the middle east 2000 years ago. They created facades with interior rooms and a few buildings from the soft stone of the multicolored cliffs of Petra in southern Jordan's high desert landscape (as well as in other locations in the region).

The Nabataeans, the original creators of Petra, built cities along the trade route from Damascus down to the southern point of the Arabian peninsula. Petra stands at the intersection of one of the great east/west trade routes from the Mediterranean Sea to the Silk Road and the north/south frankincense route from Damascus to Oman. Petra was probably first seen by western travelers when European Crusaders, under King Baldwin I, built a castle fortress at Petra in the early 12th century. The Crusaders surrendered their Petra fortress to Salah ad-Din (Saladin) in 1189. Johann Ludwig Burckhardt was the first westerner to see Petra when he had a surreptitous peek of Petra while traveling in the region in 1812. Travelers from the West then began to trickle in for both scientific exploration as well as leisure travelers.

Today, the five Bedoul bedouin tribes still live and graze their herds around the ancient site.

Until recently the five Bedoul bedouin tribes led a pastoral life at Petra. They lived in the 2000 year old perfectly rectilinear rooms they call caves or in tents during the warmer weather. They grew a few crops, grazed their herds of goats and some sheep and had the skills that many in the west have recently come to re-examine and value and emulate. Climbing, weaving, making bread, yoghurt and other staples from their own fields and animals were part of the annual cycle of the seasons. On a ridge just north of the ancient site lies Umm Sayhun, the village that the Jordanian government built. The government offered and encouraged the Bedul to move into homes built for them at the edge of Petra in the Um Sayhun village in the mid-1980's. Many families still own goats and sheep and in summertime they still graze the herds walking and climbing long distances among the sometimes treacherous cliffs. Young children learn survival and navigational skills while tending their familys herd. An occasional family tent may be seen at the edges of Petra and also in Um Sayhun when a big wedding or party is planned.
Vivian's photographs reveal the majesty of the former city of Petra and the environment in which the Bedoul bedouin live and work. In the 20 plus years that Vivian has been photographing the Bedoul, her friends and acquaintances have become accustomed to modern conveniences and modern life.

Now tourists and travelers from every continent come to Petra to visit the "Rose Red City, Half as Old as Time." A few are lucky to make the acquaintance of a Bedoul guide or cafe owner and are invited to a wedding or an evening's dinner at home in Um Sayhun or a tent in a wadi or field near some majestic cliffs where the outlines of steps made by the Nabataeans are still used for climbing.


Married To a Bedouin

The American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR)


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