Stars in the desert
When we planned the Jordan part of our trip we were very excited about camping in the desert at Wadi Rum. So much so that Evan had to dissuade me from making it two nights with an extra day of desert hiking.
But as the day approached, I started worrying about just how cold it would be. The day before, in Petra, as we had all shivered in the sacrificial high place, I started wondering whether our Beijing winter thermals would be enough as we slept in a Bedouin tent.
I should have known better. Bedouin have been camping in the desert for thousands of years. Although they are much better known for their hot weather tricks, they’ve learned a thing or two about the cold, in passing.
The first phase of our desert camp visit was spent in the central tent, where a square open stove in the middle of the tent was hosting a kettle full of sweetened tea, and a lovely fire which periodically roared as our hosts put some more dry desert timber on it.
A meal of rice, vegetable and chicken stews and salads followed, reminding me once again that when meat is expensive, vegetables are often delicious. We had a relaxed conversation around the fire with our hosts and our fellow guests, with the Bedouin guides very interested to hear that camels were running wild in Australia, and hence could well be bargains if they could manage to catch one.
But before the conversation could continue into feral horses, or even goats, we were called outside for the evening show – the stars before the moon rose. The Milky Way arced across the night sky, and we were reminded, once again, why every pre industrial people has names and legends about all the constellations. Our southern hemisphere educations didn’t do us much good in trying to name anything we could see, but we stood outside in the gradually cooling desert night for a good half hour just staring up at them and marvelling at the display.
Our bedouin tent, made out of finely woven goat hair, was already just a little bit warmer than the outside desert air. And after we snuggled down under our bedouin blankets we spent the night toasty warm, admiring those Bedouin weavers all the more.