Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Readin': Married to a Bedouin

I bought a copy of Marguerite van Geldermalsen's Married to a Bedouin in Petra on Sunday at one of the many souvenir stores that line the 'main drag' of Petra. The bookseller was Marguerite's son, Raami, a young Bedouin/Kiwi man who looks quite a bit like his father, but speaks perfect English with an Australian accent. He spent his high school days at a boardiing school in New Zealand, where his mother grew up, and then went to university in Australia, gaining a degree in electrical engineering. Raami was running the shop will his mum was 'away on holiday' in Sydney.

The book is a memoir of Marguerite's life in Petra. She fell in love with a handsome souvenir seller there in 1978, married him and lived among the Bedouin, raising a family of a girl and two boys with her husband, Mohammad Abdullah Othman. She was trained as a nurse and, as such, ran the local clinic in Petra for many years. I'm sure that helped her immensely in becoming a part of the community there.

I really liked the book for a number of reasons. One was that I read a good fraction of it while we were still in Petra, so I could imagine so much of what she was talking about very easily having just seen so many of the locations. The tone of the book is overwhelmingly positive; it is obvious that she loves the people of that community and she writes about them in a clear-eyed and affectionate manner. The book is composed of many short chapters arranged in roughly chronological order that focus on a particular story. Most of them run for 2 or 3 pages and then she moves on to another story. In one section toward the end of the book she talks about that positive attitude.

"I have mostly remembered the good times, but that is how I like to look at life. I have not written about. . ." and then she goes on to catalogue a number of negative stories that she chose not to tell. She spends one paragraph on that and then goes back to her narrative. The book ends on a somewhat bittersweet note; Mohammad dies of kidney failure due to unregulated (not through neglect or not trying to regulate it) diabetes and she moves to Australia.

"I might go back and see if I can find a Petra I can live in without Mohammad. I know that it is still an exciting place to be. . . . But I wasn't in Petra for the mountains or the history - nor even for the culture. Without Mohammad to hold me I am no longer married to a Bedouin and, despite all the things we have accumulated, I have become a nomad once again."

The book was written in 2006. It is comforting to know that in 2013, Marguerite is living and working in Petra again with her son, Raami. I don't know how easy it is to pick up a copy of it, but I highly recommend Married to a Bedouin.

1 comment:

Nardpants said...

It sounds like a great read! I look forward to checking it out of the RoboDad Library. Too bad it's not on the kindle club.

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I'm currently 60 years old. I currently work as the learning management system specialist for American University of Madaba in Madaba, Jordan. I was originally certified as a high-school English teacher and taught school for 13 years (1 year of substituting, 1 year of 7th grade, 2 years of a combined 5th, 6th, 7th grade, 9 years of 8th grade). I've worked for hardware and software companies for the past 23 years doing training, training materials development, certification test development and other education related stuff. My wife and I have raised four children to adulthood; some of them live at home at the moment, but that won't last (they're too independent for that). We live at home with 2 Golden Retrievers, 2 black cats, a crazy cat, and, during the winter, 70,000 coho salmon.