Petra, Jordan is one of the places we had on our list of places to visit while we’re living in the Middle East. It’s relatively close, affordable for us to travel to, and in November of 2013, we had a 5-day weekend. So, off to Jordan we went!
Having lived in the Middle East for three years, I did have a little background knowledge and plenty of curiosity about the Bedouin people who still live in this region. Indiana Joe and I explored Petra and the surrounding regions in Jordan, from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, and found many things to like, beautiful scenery, roadside coffee shops and trucks loaded with tomatoes by the dozens. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful country and had a wonderful trip.
This book was a surprise to me. I didn’t know of it before we went, and had never heard of Marguerite van Geldermalsen or heard her story. This book is her autobiography of how she met her husband, Mohammad Abdullah Othman, a Bedouin from Petra, and their life together living in a cave in Petra. I loved the story! Having been inside Petra and seen many of the places she describes made her story so much more vivid for me, but even without that, it’s still a compelling tale.
I visited Petra to see and marvel at the amazing sights, to learn more about its cultural and historical significance, and because I was curious about it. In her book, Marguerite, or “Fatima” as she came to be called by the Bedouins, tells of the time in 1984 when Queen Elizabeth II of Britain visited Jordan. Marguerite and Mohammad were offered a chance to meet Queen Elizabeth and Queen Noor of Jordan. Over the years, many people had asked her how she, a Western woman used to modern standards, could live in a cave. The night of the Queen Elizabeth visit, a reporter asked her this same question again, “Tell me – what is your reason for living here…?” Marguerite looked at her husband and replied simply, “He is.”
This is Marguerite and Mohammad’s story, as told by Marguerite. It’s a love story. And it’s an interesting and insightful depiction of how the Bedouin people have lived and still live in the beautiful place called Petra.
Married to a Bedouin, by Marguerite van Geldermalsen