A Desert Feast in Jordan

An endless backdrop of scorched sand shimmered under the intense white rays of the sun. The heat attaches itself to my skin as I trek.  I watch as a dwindling pool of sun-light melts across the landscape, casting a dusk haze as we trek through the protected area of Wadi Rum with rumbling stomachs.  I sink into the sand as I walk with both hunger and heat sapping at my morale.

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Our pace quickens as we catch sight of our Bedouin Campsite. We’re greeted immediately by a tall Bedouin man wearing white, flowing robes and a distinctive red and white chequered head scarf.  He leads us straight to a large tent furnished with straw mats, nut brown tables and large cushions surrounding a gently flickering fire. A blackened, iron kettle sits on the flames emitting a light trail of grey steam. Our Bedouin host, Hami, brings over a silver tray of fingersized glasses. With swift expertise, Hami fills each glass to the brim with hot, minty tea, presenting each of us with a glass, a greeting and a smile. It is a welcome relief from the relentless desert heat, where not even a wisp of cloud softened the harsh rays of the desert sun.

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A savoury aroma wafts towards the tent, my stomach clenches in hunger at the prospect of a meal and there is a light murmur of excitement for our meal in the desert. Hami calls us over and we gather round near a raised section of sand. The area is fenced off with small wooden poles and a candle lit lantern dangles above us, sending flickers of light across the area.

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He explains that beneath the sand is a Zarb, a traditional cooking practice used by the Bedouin people for centuries. It is an underground oven with layer upon layer of baked potatoes, seasoned vegetables and slow cooked meats. The food is buried and placed upon a bed of hot coals, with the sand sealing in the heat. I watch in curiosity as a large metal lid is pulled away. With a gloved hand, Hami reaches underground and unearths the Zarb, revealing the food stacked in separate sections, like a large tiered cake stand.

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A glorious aroma of slow roasted meat and vegetables spreads across the air. We return to the tent in anticipation, where a banquet of Jordanian flat breads, hummus, herb infused oils and rice was laid out across the table.

Hami places the stack of roasted food on a low table, serving each of us with a cut of lamb that falls off the bone and a generous helping of roasted root vegetables and baked potatoes. We feast together as we temporarily forget the heat of the desert and the weariness of our limbs. We are as far away from civilisation as we can be. There is an air of quiet contentment as we devour mouthful after mouthful of the delicious feast.

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My trekking group – TXR Exodus Travels May 2015

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Bedouin Camp

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