A NIGHT WITH A BEDOUIN FAMILY IN THE DESERT OF RASHAYDEH
Jerusalem wilderness. Share food and stories with the family of Hajj Ali in his
tents at Rashaydeh. Watch the desert sunrise over the distant hills of the Dead
Hajj Ali was born in a tent in this desert 75 years ago, and
has raised his family and herded his goats in these hills ever since. Today,
Ali leaves the hard work for his children and grandchildren. But he can still
tell a good story, and there’s not much that he doesn’t know about the old ways
of the Bedouin – or about the beautiful, harsh landscape in which he has lived
anywhere in the region – a full-day hike through the Wadi Jihar, a deep
limestone canyon that winds down into the desert towards the Dead Sea. There
has been a human presence in this wilderness for millennia – flints points
found in one of caves above the valley date from the Middle Paleolithic period,
which reaches back almost 300,000 years.
The valley brings us out in the region known as Rashaydeh –
where we find the tents of Hajj Ali and his son, Abu Ismael. The family will
welcome us for a traditional meal, after which there is a good chance that Ali
will recline with a cup of sweet tea to tell stories. If there’s enough light,
Abu Ismael might drive us out in the back of his old Toyota pick-up truck to
visit the abandoned Jordanian-era fort overlooking the Jordan Valley.
Overnight in the tents, and (for early risers) spectacular
desert sunrise over the mountains.
Getting There and Away
Transfers by minibus or taxi can be arranged from Bethlehem
or Jerusalem to the start of the hike (Wadi Jihar) and back again from
The walk down Wadi Jihar is a full-day hike of some 4 – 6
hours / 13km. It is mainly downhill, though there is some climbing towards the
end and the terrain is rocky underfoot. There’s not much shade – bring plenty
of water, good boots or shoes, sunscreen, and a hat. All hikes are guided by
experienced local guides.
The camp is basic. There are blankets and mattresses for
those who wish to stay overnight. It would be a good idea to bring your own
sleeping bag, or at least a cotton sleeping bag liner. Also bring a flashlight
or headlight, and some wet-wipes for freshening-up after your long walk.
There’s no water for washing here.
For more details visit: www.jerusalemwilderness.com