Bedouin Hospitality in Israel

The Bible tells us in Genesis, Chapter 18 that Abraham invited people into his ten as sign of friendship. This 4,000 year old tradition continues today in Israel among the Bedouin communities living in the desert.

But you don’t have to be a friend or a relative to enjoy the hospitality of a Bedouin sheik.

The Mamshit Camel Ranch in the Eastern Negev is an out-of-the-ordinary tourist attraction for visitors that carries on the ancient tradition of friendship and hospitality. The founder and operator of the ranch is Ariel Ullman, a zoologist by profession, who lives in the Negev Desert surrounded by the Bedouin communities.

On my recent visit to Israel, I spent a night in the tent in the midst of the white sands near the Yamin Plain and the Nabatean city of Kurnub (Mamshit).

I breathed in the desert air and found it refreshing and invigorating. Waking up in the morning to the sight of mountain peaks and rough plains is surely something out of the ordinary.

It was like a picture out of National Geographic magazine. Only its better than a picture in a magazine because you are there experiencing this spectacular view of the country.

Mountng camel in the desert
Mountng camel in the desert | Larger

Our group of writers arrived at the ranch in the late afternoon. We carried our belongings and put them into our tent, but before we got too comfortable we were asked to take a camel ride through the desert.

We expected a short ride but it turned out to be three hours in duration with no turning back as all the camels were tied together with a long rope between them. We rode in a circular route over steep mountain ridges that only a sure-footed camel could attempt.

The camel ride was surprisingly comfortable with large, soft saddles that almost like pillows cushioning our ride into the unfamiliar terrain of the desert.

Mountng camel in the desert
Camel ride in dessert | Larger

Following our several mile trek we were led into the traditional Bedouin tent, made of goat hair and wool. We were welcomed into the tent by a Bedouin sheik that served us tea.

We were told that it is traditional for the Bedouins to have the man in the family welcome all guests into the tent in a special ceremony which includes serving guests three cups of tea.

Bedouins consider all guests in their tnt to be sent by their God and it is their duty to protect all of their guests from harm when they are visiting.

Bedouin women, however, are forbidden to speak to strangers.

There are 100,000 Bedouins in cities living in houses and approximately 10,000 living in tents.

The desert
The desert | Larger

The laws mandate that every child has to go to school in Israel, even if he is a Bedouin, reducing the number of nomadic Bedouins. Some Bedouins serve in the army and attend Israeli universities.

But at the Mamshit Camel Ranch we were able to experience the nomadic lifestyle of the Bedouin, if only for a day.

We participated in a traditional Bedouin feast, complete with pita bread, served on enormous platters covered by mounds of lamb, rice and other delicacies.

And we ate, Bedouin style, seated on the floor in the tent next to our sleeping mats. And we drank cups of tea.

The Mamshit Camel Ranch specializes in desert trips, camel rides, four-wheel drive vehicles, cliff climbing and hiking.Trips are individually planned for each group according to the needs of the group with an emphasis placed on the subjects covered by the guides.