Jordan- Married to a Bedouin, Petra

Meet Marguerite van Geldermalsen, who fell in love in Petra, Jordan and lived in the ancient city with Bedouin Mohammad Abdallah.

by Darley Newman

Marguerite van Geldermalsen, author of the book “Married to a Bedouin” happened to be in Petra the day I was touring. She was selling jewelry and her book at a souvenir stand near the amphitheatre. I rode a camel over to her kiosk and interviewed her as a part of Equitrekking’s Jordan episode.

Petra Camel

Marguerite van Geldermalsen

In 1978 Marguerite was traveling through Petra, when she met and fell in love with Bedouin Mohammad Abdallah. Marguerite was a 22-year-old New Zealander. She married and lived with Mohammad Abdallah for 25 years in a 2,000-year-old cave, birthing three children and learning Arabic. I have started reading her book. The book gives you an insiders / outsiders a perspective on Bedouin life in Petra. It was not easy for a foreign woman to live in a cave in Petra, but certainly life here certainly held simple joys and a real sense of community.

Marguerite van Geldermalsen

Talking to Marguerite and hearing about her life in Petra, I was reminded of the Navajo with whom I rode in Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. The Navajo who lived in Canyon de Chelly, herding sheep and farming, seemed to parallel the Bedouin in some ways. The Bedouin no longer live in caves in Petra, and Marguerite’s husband passed in 2002. Speaking with her and starting her book, I’m certainly learning more about Bedouin culture and life in Jordan. Still the most I'm learning is by riding with the Bedouin throughout the country.

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