I’ve been holding this post off for a while because I’m at a loss to explain the Gypsy Bedouins who live in Petra. They really blew my mind.
First of all they are hilarious, and can add serious entertainment value to your visit.
They invite you to ride the donkeys and encourage you by yelling about all of the ‘features’ of the ride:
‘TAXI!’ they yell!
‘Ferraris!’ they declare.
‘Air Conditioning!’ they joke.
They are real salesmen. They sell passionately and convincingly! The children haven’t been to school, so can’t write their names but are so bright they can switch between several languages with ease as they interact with tourists.
On the other hand, many Bedouin Gypsies have a known history of leading a party lifestyle and damage the site of Petra by living in it – leaving faeces, litter and the unavoidable wear and tear of habitation in the ancient grounds. The Jordanian government wanted the gypsies to move out of Petra so built them a village near the site. The gypsies therefore live a rent and tax-free lifestyle.
Tourists scams are rampant. There are signs up on the way in that have recommendations for tourists on how to/not behave. They say things like “Don’t buy postcards form the children – they should be in school” and “Try not to ride a donkey, but if you do make sure it’s strong enough for your weight”. Your horse ride might be free with the ticket but then a seriously large tip is demanded at the end of the ride. The animals are abused: a boy was whipping a horse in front of us so that we would pay attention to him. Donkeys carry people up the uneven stairs to reach the monastery, but the donkeys are overused and small and shouldn’t be made to carry such large weights.
But this is the bit that is really astounding:
How attractive the men are.
My husband describes the men of Petra as “confusingly beautiful”.
They use charcoal as eyeliner and on their eyebrows and it looks phenomenal.
And they flirt. One was making suggestive eyes at me from the door of the bus. Josh was sitting right next to me, also looking at him, and the gypsy didn’t even care!
Amazingly some tourist women are very taken by the men and start ‘relationships’ with them. They then go back home and start sending them regular payments of thousands of dollars. There’s a Facebook page that woman join to find out who else is dating their Bedouin!
The children are also incredibly pretty. I couldn’t stop staring at their perfect bone structure and perfect eyebrows. I wanted to take a photo but also didn’t want to get into the negotiation of “you’ve taken a photo of me now you must pay me some crazy amount of money”.
Petra is really an incredible, magical place and the fascinating lifestyle and behaviour of the gypsies definitely adds to this unique experience.
But do words even describe it? No! You should go to Jordan.