On a star-filled night, far away from the light pollution of modern civilization, I get a generous and delicious taste of the typical fairytale experience of Jordan.
I devour handfuls of mansaf, a traditional Bedouin dish of rice, lamb, and spices cooked in the ground, and drink hot cups of sickly sweet tea. I am sitting in the tent of my nomadic Bedouin host in the Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum, the legendary setting of Lawrence of Arabia. The billowing robes and distinctive headwear of the tribesmen, and the snorting camels, bring to life a desert fantasy and the modern world might as well be on another planet.
The next day, the rich taste of Jordanian hospitality continues when I am invited to a wedding in the city of Mafraq, an hour north of Amman, where unadulterated Jordan Bedouin culture thrives.
On arrival, I am greeted by ear-splittingly loud Arabic music, courtesy of a live music troupe. About 150 women are gathered to my left, sipping tea and shouting praises at the groom, while a raucous 300-strong crowd of men in traditional dress form a circle to dance a traditional dabke, chanting and shouting in unison. Confetti flies around the room and fireworks and celebratory gunshots pierce the deafening music.
The groom is lifted on the shoulders of the men and paraded around, then it is my turn to be carried high as they notice the presence of a foreigner, now an honored guest. Most of the people here are urbanized Bedouins, who have abandoned their traditional nomadic lifestyle generations before but fuse modern-day lifestyles with Bedouin tradition.
Taking a break from the mayhem, I sit down with some of the elders who are eating large piles of mansaf. Ibrahim, an uncle of the groom, sits beside me. “What you see here is the real Jordan,” he says. “We Bedouins are the backbone of this country, we created it. All of this celebration you see here is pure Jordanian tradition. Welcome! Welcome!”
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