Since 1985, Petra is a UNESCO world heritage monument. The region is considered to have been inhabited by the Nabatean, an ancient civilization that was victim of a natural disaster (see Prophet Salih). Some Bedouins still live within the famous caves of Petra. They claim the heritage of the Nabatean's civilisation, no one truly knows for how long they have been living in the caves neither do we know their origins. For the ease of tourism and the preservation of the site, the Jordanian government built a well-equipped village nearby to allow the Bedouins to settle at ease away from the caves. In the late 20’s, a full migration of 35 families, 6 tribes, 4 000 people moved from the caves to the new village.
After living in the village for a while, few families could not adopt the modern life in the village. They tremendously missed the caves, therefore some families went back to the caves preferring the quietness. The cons of this nomadic lifestyle are that children go to school riding a donkey for over 40 minutes. Children are also exposed to an inherited dialect (a mixture of pure Arabic and Aramaic language), therefore they have some difficulties at school. The nearest hospital is an hour and half away. A total exclusion of modern facilities, the Bedouins of the caves enjoy this secluded life and feel proud to perpetuate the tradition.
Although most of the new generations have settled in different parts of Jordan, some still work on the site, they sell their art crafts for a living and propose guiding tours for tourists. In the evening, they recite poems and stories of past generations around tea and sweets.
After a meeting with Ahmed who lives in
the caves, he says, " Sometimes it is hard to
unite with the citizen of Petra because they
don't value us and don't accept our lifestyle,
but we are happy and proud to be part of
Jordan and we are all Muslims and that is
what matters at the end. Many Westerners
have bought our caves and come for summer
vacation as they have been over pressured
by their stressful lifestyle. No one can judge
if living in a cave is comfortable or not until they have tried it themselves.”
Meeting with Abdullah, owner of Candle Hotel, one of the nearest hotels from the site, claims to have a long family heritage living in Petra: " Life is quiet in Petra, we enjoy welcoming the tourists, they make us travel. We have a pretty safe community here, we enjoy sharing our mystical history of past civilisation. The Bedouins are helpful but stay aware, we never know who we can truly trust. We have a range of activities, we don't just go for the picture in front of the famous facade (treasure).In Fact, there is so much to do here that you need at least a week to discover it all.”