After a tenuous start at the border … waiting for permission to pass into the country not once but twice … we entered Jordan, an arresting mountainous country of 60% desert. (Our guide told us that the Jordan desert can be seen from space.) Here we walked backward into our story: Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan River, John the Baptist emerging from this wilderness to make way for the coming of the Lord, … the great silence that hearkened to the wilderness cry of the prophets and then the people of God waiting to enter the Promised Land.
Three kingdoms reigned in this region: the Edomites – descendants of Esau, the Ammonites and the Moabites – descendants of a not so auspicious beginning between Lot and his two daughters. (Who said the Bible isn’t racy!) These were the first kingdoms that God’s chosen people had to navigate before entering the Promised Land, and thereafter many times war with them. The descendants of these three kingdoms continue to live in this area some still living as bedouins, traveling place to place with their flocks and camels and jeeps!
James our guide, who continually refers to himself as James Bond … pretty funny guy, arranged a Bedouin experience complete with desert hospitality of cardamon tea. They took us by ”Jeep”, really a small truck with padded seating in the truck bed, through the desert landscape of the same Lawrence of Arabia who acted as translator between the Bedouin and the English in the early 1900’s. My first thought was, How do they live here? The land is hard and harsh … but also breathtaking. I don’t know how these mountains were formed. I only guess it was the primeval waters that formed and shaped with force their rugged heights eroding away the sand that formed the desert. What may have been lush and green then is truly void of any life now. And yet here they live.
The Bedouins are a people who live in tents carrying their homes wherever they go. If they ever move into a house or permanent dwelling they cease to be Bedouin. James ”Bond” told us that many here continue to practice the Bedouin tradition for making decisions or making peace between two people. Say a man wants to marry another man’s daughter. He goes to the house and asks her father for her hand in marriage. Before any answer is given coffee is brought and the guest will set it at his feet. The father goes to his daughter and asks her answer to the request, yes or no. If yes, the father and guest drink the coffee. If all is going well, the guest may ask for more. He holds up his cup and it is filled. If all is well but he wants no more, he holds up his cup and shakes it. You may wonder what happens if the answer is ”no”. If no, the guest gets up and leaves without drinking the coffee. It remains on the floor. Peace is made in a similar way. All negotiations happen over very strong but very tasty and smooth coffee. I am now wired for the day after two cups.
Today on to Petra, the ancient city of the Nabateans.