Wooster Geologists as guests in a Bedouin village

MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–Melissa and I had a fantastic day, much of which will stretch over at least another couple of blog entries. We traveled to the Dead Sea region with our Israeli geologist colleague and friend Yoav Avni and his wife Noa (an education specialist and botanist). We saw extraordinary things at the Dead Sea itself, and then on the way back we visited with some Bedouin friends of the Avnis in a tiny village of three families a few kilometers north of Mitzpe Ramon. In the image above we see the family patriarch Ali, one of his sons, and two visiting neighbor boys. We are gathered around glowing coals in their tent — welcome warmth in the cold. Note that we have just been served sweet Bedouin tea in glasses. (Empty your glass and it is immediately refilled.)  Ali, Yoav and Noa conversed in Hebrew and occasionally translated for us the stories Ali was telling in a very animated way. Melissa and I later commented to each other how interesting it was to watch a conversation we could not understand. So many moving hands!

We were served this Bedouin goat cheese. It is very hard so you nibble off small bits. It is also very salty, so the tea was quite welcome!

This is the inside of the tent. It is made of diverse materials, including cotton sheets and canvas. The rugs are laid on packed soil.

Ali wanted to demonstrate for us the traditional Bedouin way of grinding wheat grains between two carefully-fashioned limestone disks. Here he is adding grain to the hole in the top block.

Ali is rotating the top stone across the surface of the bottom stone with an inserted stick. The limestone must be coarse enough to grind the grain and hard enough not to add rock to your meal!

Here is the product — whole-grain flour! They often mix this with warm water to make a simple porridge.

This is a view of the small village from Ali’s tent. The buildings are made from diverse materials. In the foreground is a donkey pen.

We enjoyed this brief cultural moment very much. The Bedouin are in transition from their original nomadic state to settlement. Ali and his family wish to preserve some of the old ways to educate others (like us) and pass down traditions to succeeding Bedouin generations who will not know life in a tent.

About Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson is a Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster. He specializes in invertebrate paleontology, carbonate sedimentology, and stratigraphy. He also is an expert on pseudoscience, especially creationism.
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2 Responses to Wooster Geologists as guests in a Bedouin village

  1. Peter Pozefsky says:

    What was the cheese made from? Goat’s milk?

  2. Mark Wilson says:

    Hello Peter! Yes, I neglected to say this is cheese from goat’s milk. I may bring you back a piece!

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