As I get ready to leave the Badia I find myself with somewhat mixed feelings. I’ve found the experience rewarding and challenging at the same time. Culturally, the Bedouin are both similar to and different from the Jordanians and Palestinians I know in Amman, but those in the Badia seem to appreciate having a more traditional and relaxed life. Though I think I would have a hard time fully adapting to this lifestyle and culture, I find a tremendous amount of beauty in it. It isn’t for me to pass judgments on other people’s way of life, it only matters that it works for them.

That said, I also wonder how well it is working for them. The lack of economic opportunity, the desire to achieve a higher standard of living, and potentially the desire to change entrenched attitudes toward gender roles, religious freedom, and other social questions while still seeking to preserve the uniqueness of the Bedouin culture and way of life places a great deal of pressure on these communities. I have to imagine that their efforts to navigate these dangerous waters are not free of casualties. It may be true for example that most women in the Badia embrace their culture’s interpretation of their role in society, but with satellite television and easy connections to cities like Amman and Damascus, it would be unreasonable to assume that every woman welcomes this interpretation of her potential.

There don’t seem to be any easy solutions to these challenges, and they’re likely to be important catalysts in changing these societies, both progressively and traditionally. What is most interesting is the degree to which members of the Bedouin community feel empowered to answer these question proactively and conversely, the degree to which the process becomes its own force, slowly but steadily pulling people toward unchartered territory, while the people are left with underlying feelings of reactionary trepidation.

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