Monday, March 27, 2023 | Ramadan 4, 1444 H
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25°C / 25°C

A memorable first trip to a Bedu's home

It was one of the biggest barastis I've seen and under the afternoon sun, the inside looked like a comfy cave filled with wild treasures and curiosities.

"You will have an opportunity today to interact with an authentic Bedouin family. The great thing about it is that they are already accustomed to having visitors so you are definitely most welcome to go inside their home and check whatever you like," said Nasser al Jaabri, an Omani guide who had been exploring the Sultanate of Oman since he was young but had started as a formal guide in 2016.

We drove nearly 30 minutes away from the popular dunes bashing site of Al Wasil towards a village still surrounded by Rimal al Sharqiyah's golden sands.

Constructed from aged palm fronds, the barasti, a wooden shelter typically set up on a temporary basis, was nearly 8mx8m in size. The door, made of ornately carved wood, was already partially opened. The hot sunlight streamed through the holes on the roof.

Inside, it was comfortably warm despite the dropping temperature outside. Three kids rushed towards us, one nearly 9 and the others between 3 and 5.

On the floor, different ornately decorated traditional clothes, mats, blankets and trinkets were neatly stacked against each other occupying nearly a quarter of the carpeted floor.

"You will have the chance to dress up as a Bedu today," Nasser said towards Charry, one of our female companions.

There were a lot of peculiar things hanging on the ceiling and on the different posts all over the barasti. There were large shelves on the other half end of the room and on these shelves, were numerous antique plates, jars, glasses, and other earthenware. It felt like a traditional museum more than a home with almost everything on display meaning something to the owners.

At the centre of the barasti is a long treasure chest. On top of it were a collection of metal vessels, traditional silver Arabic water pots, silver incense burners and a few more giant clay pots.

Exploring the whole room was like taking a walk through an educational maze. The skulls of goats and camels dotted some of the posts while camel spines hung with metal kerosene lamps.

The whole room was also predominantly red and black and my yellow sweater was significantly noticeable in the sea drowning in red Arabic splendour.

The boy moved towards me handing me a knitted armband which I said no to.

"These are for sale?" I asked Nasser of which he replied that most of the items on display are for sale.

When the matriarch finally came, the room came to a halt. Her green hijab and black mask were unable to contain the power of her presence. The corners of her eyes were lined with kohl and while she didn't say anything as she moved towards her corner in the room, everyone could feel that she was assessing the three of us foreigners in her home.

"You must try this," she told our female companion, handing her a yellow hijab. They put on her a mask. Everything was a slow procession of layering her with different clothes. The last touch was the pink garment that covered her head and shoulder with the rest of the clothing covering her back flowing daintily towards her ankle.

"You are now a Bedu," said Nasser with a chuckle.

Charry played a little with the kids. The kids had their own little dance and song so unfamiliar it must have been passed down to them by their grandmother.

I checked out every corner of the barasti. The men of the family were away, tending to camels, goats and their farms. There was another door that opened to the opposite end of the room of which we were not allowed as it led to the private quarters of the family.

The camels were making loud noises outside while the children started to invite us for more games. They bring out empty plastic water bottles inside of which were scorpions they caught days before.

"Not a lot of people know about this place. Only guides with permission from the ministry usually know and we are trying our best to showcase what a Bedu life is like by allowing them to interact with the families," Nasser said.

The old Bedu woman was seated humming by her corner in the room. Her daughter in law came all covered, whispered something in her ear and eventually settled in a seat not far from her.

"They live simple lives but just like every Omani, they are very welcoming," Nasser said.

My eyes were overwhelmed by everything that I saw and there was barely a moment to process what was inside that room. While we were busy looking around, a new batch of visitors came. The children rushed towards them with their gleeful laughter while the grandma waited for them to approach her.

I'd been in Oman for six years but it was the first time for me to visit a Bedu's home.

It was days later on another trip when I learned a few more things about them.

"I've travelled Oman extensively too and always, whenever I meet a Bedu on the road, they always wave me by. Before I didn't stop at all but one time, out of curiosity I stopped, and he asked me if I needed anything. This old man in the middle of nowhere, offered me if I needed water or food. In their culture, especially in the past, whenever they see a stranger, they wave at them in case they need help. They feel obligated towards you. When you are in their domain, they feel like you are their responsibility," my friend shared.

"Sometimes, when we go around and see them in their old garments or their very simplistic lifestyle, a lot of us judge them. Primarily because they are different. But there are lessons to be learned from the Bedus and it only takes listening and studying to understand that they are a society of respect that needs appreciation," he said.

I agree. There are lessons to be learned from the Bedus. It is my hope that one day, I will be honoured to be invited to their bonfire, to partake in their food and understand their many secrets, especially that of the desert. It is my hope to help preserve and propagate the beauty of what they have.

When we left their simple abode, my curiosity has grown even deeper. But I find it amazing how visiting someone's home provides a lot of insight regarding who they are as a people.

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