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An insight into our Bedouin house of hair

bedouin house of hair in wadi rum desert
Imagine standing on a ridge of one of our desert’s mountains. In front of you is a vast yellow sand valley. You enjoy the view for a moment. You wonder how big this valley is. And how long it will take to cross it by foot or camel. Although the valley is dotted with small plants, you realize it is hard to live in this hot and dry place. You wonder if people even still live here. And then your eye is caught by this dark thing in the far back of the valley. Your curiosity brings you closer to it. But what is this thing?

Beit ash-sha'ar, house of hair

This dark thing is called beit ash-sha’ar, which is Arabic for the house of hair; the Bedouin tent. This type of tent has been home to the Bedouin since ancient times. Our women are in charge of making and maintaining our tents. They use goat hair and sheep’s wool to weave strips on a loom, which they sew together afterward. These curtains are for the outside of the tent. It takes them about 40 days to prepare one curtain. Depending on the amount of goat and sheep’s they have, it takes up to a year to make a whole tent. We use wooden pools made from fig trees to erect the tent. The tent is divided into a public and private part with a special curtain. Unlike the outside, this one is of camel hair. A regular size tent fits up to 10 people.

Comfortable throughout the year

We can adjust all outside curtains to our needs. In summer the sun warms the outside of the tent to be very hot. Although you might not expect it, inside, it remains blissfully cool. In winter, when it is cold outside, our tent stays comfortably warm with just a small fire. And in the rare case of rain, the weave contracts letting no water through.

Our tents layout

As mentioned before, we can divide the tent into two separate parts with a square curtain that we call the qata. One section is our public section, and the other part is our private section. The public and private parts make it possible to regulate relations between men and women as we are used to in our culture and religion. But no section is exclusively for either men or women. If only close family members are present, everybody can move freely. If outsiders came to visit us, the men sit with them in the public part. During these visits, our women stay in the private area.

Nomadic lifestyle

Our tents are easy to assemble and easy to move. We move to places where there is enough food for our animals. When there is not enough food anymore, we take down our tent and together with our animals move to another place. In spring, when food is available widely, we sometimes have a whole valley to ourselves. When food is scarce, families put tents together in places where there is still enough food.

Although most of us settle down in Rum village, the nomads inside us are still very much alive. In winter we built tents next to our houses. For the simple reason, they are more warm and comfortable. And whenever we are free, we take our beit ash-sha’ar and leave for the desert to spend our time there.

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