A night with the Bedouin
Ride a camel, eat traditional foods and sleep in a tent under the starts in the heart of the desert.
The Negev Bedouin are a pastoral, nomadic Arab tribe. Bedouin originally hail from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Jordan but are distinct from other Arabs in traditions, moral code and dress. The need to graze their herds in the harsh desert conditions have required Bedouin to stay on the move over the generations, though in Israel's Negev Desert, some groups have established more permanent settlement. And this is where tourism comes in.
Nowadays, some Bedouin communities allow foreigners to experience their history and culture: Visitors get a taste of typical Bedouin cuisine, have the opportunity to ride camels, listen to traditional music and sleep in authentic Bedouin tents.
Upon entering the Bedouin village, you will be greeted by Bedouin men dressed in jellabiyas, long-sleeved gowns similar to the Arabian thawb, and a smagg or amaymemma, a white headcover. You might see a Bedouin woman wearing a long dress and a tarha to cover her hair, making fetir (their version of bread, similar to a thin tortilla) on a hot pan over a large fire.
Residents will offer you a snack including home-ground coffee and sweet herbal tea accompanied by baklava and fruit in season. Then visitors can enjoy the expansive views of the desert on camel ride. It's nothing like riding a horse, by the way, and it's fun to experience these curiously appealing animals, which remain crucially important to the Bedouin people.
In the evening, visitors sit on pillows around a large round tray filled with typical foods — rice, vegetables, chicken, fetir, and a variety of salads and hummus. You can expect to eat until you are uncomfortably full before learning a song and game to which the Bedouin grind coffee beans. Meals typically end in a cup of bitter Arabic coffee.
Be sure to gaze at the crystalline, starry night sky before snuggling into your colorful bed in an authentic tent woven from goats' hair.
It bears noting that there is a plan to relocate nearly 30,000 Bedouin in the Negev. The program, called the Prawer Plan for its author, is designed to recognize the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and to resolve land-ownership disputes. The plan has aroused no little opposition among the Negev Bedouin.
To book a Bedouin experience, check options on Internet, but here are a couple:
Midreshet Ben Gurion, P.O.B 157, Har Hanegev 84990, Israel
Kfar Hanokdim, P.O.B 1568, Arad 8911501, Israel