“Come, sit. The fire will warm you...” / by Adib Chowdhury


“Come, sit. The fire will warm you.” We may be in a desert but people tend to remember its fiery heat and forget the surprising chill that comes with nightfall, its strong gust flicking at the corners of the tarpaulin. Abou Sultan the Bedouin, finishes praying, pokes the fire, picks up the skewered pieces of lemon roasted chicken, and hands them to us before breaking his fast: an incredible feat in the desert. At this point I would like to tell you that he follows the tradition of Bedouin storytelling by filling out the shadows of unknown shapes surrounding us cast by the fire, of stories of Djinn and ghouls long into the night before we pass out enveloped by the canopy of stars above us, “the one thousand star hotel”, as he quipped earlier. Instead, headlights appear out of nowhere and his son jumps out of a van, shakes our hands and smiles, then mutters something hurriedly to his father. Perhaps a family emergency, perhaps he was just there for the pictures for his website for the new camping grounds he wants to set up for tourists, or perhaps he simply wanted to sleep in a nice bed that wasn’t surrounded by flying sand and ants with heads three times the size of their body before he began his early morning shift as a coach driver to make ends meet. I can sympathise. Perhaps we will never know. Abou Sultan the Bedouin simply got in the van and drove off. This is the reality for many bedouin despite pasty headscarf toting tourists wanting ‘authentic’ experiences. That the Bedouin must earn an increasing income to keep up with Jordan’s steep rising costs despite wage stagnancy is not exactly instagrammable material. Regardless, he was absolutely right about the one thousand star hotel- hands down best view I have ever had at night. [notes from an assignment earlier in the Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan. June 2018]