Bedouin Tales: Abu Said and the Lost Camel


I’ve been spending a significant amount of time at Feynan and when I’m not out exploring new routes or working at the lodge I enjoy sitting with some of my local friends over tea in their homes. Listening to the stories of their lives, community and history is perhaps what I look forward to most at Feynan. I have decided to start putting ink to paper and recording these stories as a regular feature on our blog. Hopefully, you will find these tales interesting in making preparations to visit Feynan or when reminiscing about Feynan once you have returned home.

One of the guides at the lodge, Ahmad, was born not far from Feynan and his family continues to live just a stone’s throw from the lodge in Wadi Dana. Last week, while we were sitting over tea and arbood (a local staple for Bedouin shepherds; wheat bread baked over coals) on a trip to Wadi Dathneh he told me an interesting story that showcases the proficiency of Bedouin trackers.

His uncle, Abu Said, lives not far from Feynan in the arid desert of Wadi Araba. One day, Abu Said returned to his tent to find that one of his camels had vanished. Alarmed, he assembled relatives and neighbors to help him find the camel. After an extensive search, they lost the camel’s tracks and returned home. To lose a camel is an expensive matter, as camels can cost well over 3,000 Jordanian Dinars.

Seven years passed and Abu Said’s cousin showed up one day with unbelievable news, “I’ve found your camel’s tracks, the one you lost years ago.” Abu Said was incredulous. Although his cousin was known for his tracking it had been far too long for a camel to reappear. The next day they set out and followed the “tracks” that Abu Said’s cousin was sure belonged to the missing camel. Finally tracking it down, they came upon another tribe with many camels.

Abu Said asked for his camel back, but the other tribe was adamant that the camel was not Abu Said’s. A meeting was arranged that night in the home of a tribal elder to resolve the matter. “How can you prove this camel is yours?” the sheikh from the other tribe asked. Abu Said proceeded to share stories of his cousin’s ability to track animals and even identify specific tracks of his friends and relatives. Unimpressed, the other tribe told Abu Said that this was not proof. Abu Said replied, “If that camel has a scar on his rear-left leg, he is my camel. Before I lost him he was injured and we had to sear a wound leaving a visible scar. If there is no scar we will leave.” Just as he said, a scar was found on the camel’s rear-left leg and the camel was immediately returned to Abu Said.

-Nickolas Neibauer