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A Bedouin Life

Aaron Ralston, Stefania Di Paola, Stephen Jones and Edwina Toohey

Bedouin children. Photograph by Edwina Toohey

Bedouin children. Photograph by Edwina Toohey

With no proper house or structure to live in, the Bedouin people of Jordan rely on the land.

“Life is shit. We need a home, we need a building,” say the Bedouin family. “We live with the snakes.”

Living on the desert hillside of Burbeyta village, the family work as farmers and herders to survive.

“It doesn’t bring anything, very little, it’s not enough for food, not enough for much at all.”

The Bedouin people are recognised by their nomadic lifestyle and this family have lived like this since their great grandfathers.

In September, when winter comes, the family will move several kilometres away to the “black caves” to keep warm.

In the summer the family live in makeshift homes, made of tarps, carpets and worn-out foam mattresses.

Flies surround the area, a main cause of illness in the family.

“The kids get sick often from the heat and the flies.”

The family own a car, which is used by the father to get to and from work, along with taking his family to hospital and collecting water.

The father works as a farmer, where he tends to sheep and planting crops.

He starts work at 7am and when it becomes too hot he returns home and then recommences until 10pm.  

There are seven boys and three girls living in the same tent.

The mother is the sole carer, feeding and looking after the children.

She bakes bread and collects milk, however they do not sell it, they use it for themselves.

The children receive a free education from grade one to six at a public school.

From grade seven onwards they pay for school fees and amenities. The trek to school each day is 5 kilometres.

The eldest son wishes to be an engineer and wants to work for the Jordanian Police with the United Nations. The UN has been deploying police officers for peacekeeping operations since the 1960s. 

He believes that going to Pakistan would be a good source of income and provide him with a better life.

When asked if they receive help from the government they answered, “nothing, you’re young, so you can work.”

The family are in the low ranks of Bedouin tribes; they mainly stay near cultivated regions of Jordan, Syria and Iraq.

The Bedouins appear ready to accommodate the changing times but still want to maintain their traditional culture of farming and herding. In some respects, the want for housing is contradictory to their nomadic lifestyle.