The Bdoul Bedouin no longer live in Petra, that ancient city in the south of Jordan. They no longer set up their tents of woven hair on the long, wind-catching ridges and invite passing tourists to share the shade, a cup of tea, an evening meal, or even a place to sleep as they did when I met my husband there in the summer of 1978. I was from New Zealand; Mohammad had been born in one of the caves. Seven years later when the Bedouin were resettled to a brick village on a barren hillside I was a part of the tribe.
Married to a Bedouin is the story of how I fell in love with Mohammad and married him; how I settled into his cave, and slept with him on the ledge in front under a sheet of stars; how I fetched water by donkey, baked bread daily and ran the local clinic. And besides that it describes the most recent history of Petra; through our stories and the stories of the people we shared the valley with comes a picture of the site when it was alive, and when I was the Bedouin from New Zealand.
Marguerite van Geldermalsen’s parents were from the Netherlands but she was born in New Zealand where she grew up on an orchard not far from Nelson. She graduated as a Registered Nurse in 1976.She married Mohammad Abdallah two years later, living with him in a cave in Petra. She ran a small clinic for the local people while Mohammad sold souvenirs. A project to remove inhabitants from the site culminated in their move to a red brick settlement in 1985 where she settled into village life and their children went to school.Mohammad’s health deteriorated and he died at the age of 50...
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