All texts/photographs: ©LindaHorowitz
Threatening cloud formations cover the horizon from one second to the next. The skyline turns from indigo blue to an alien shade of cobalt.
Quivers of wind shatter the stillness over the dehydrated plain. The wind escalates and howls around the powdered dust. It is as if the murky air is shuddering in tremors, then abruptly static; indecisive of it’s next move.
The giant drops splatter over the windshield, turning it into a horizontal waterfall. A sharp knife with serrated edges, two flashes of lightning strike the earth. The sky turns black, the thorn bushes shudder in their rooted prisons, while the free-wheeling balls of tumbleweed twirl over the seemingly endless plain.
Hakim opens the window and holds his hand out to feel the gust. He is overjoyed.
“Rain!” he exclaims.
“Such a blessing!”
* * * *
Far on the other side of the plain, Hakim points to four small figures.
“There are children over there; they need help,” he exclaims, and with a sharp jolt accelerates the gas pedal.
His eyesight is extraordinary…
Soon I can also see them clearly; two young boys, a girl and a donkey. The boys are possibly eight or nine years old, the girl; not older than three.
Soaked, shaking and bawling, they huddle desperately together under a decayed tree. Their wretched brown donkey quivers in fright. One of the boys clutches onto the donkey’s rope with both hands; his tears melting together with the blinding rain.
I want to help, but at the same time, also want to photograph these precise images I’ve been waiting for. Snatching my camera bag from under my seat, I find each lens and my Nikon, wrapped in plastic bags for protection against the dust and sand in my double zippered rucksack.
But I’ve been caught unprepared. Each move seems to take minutes and each one of my four lenses is fogged by the sudden humidity. I carefully wipe the 35 millimetre with lens tissues, but the moisture has also found its way to the back side of the lens, which is forbidden to touch.
Damn it! The precise moment was here; I didn’t catch it.
“God damn it!”
The Al-Khalifa Family, page 71
Fadiyah’s veil disappears.
Her thin braid comes loose without effort on her stooped, wrinkled neck. She looks much older than her fifty years; the life in the desert and hard existence of Bedouin women, taking a hard toll on their lives.
A man can get nowhere without a woman, and most Bedouin women cannot be without a man. But the woman is not weak; her physical strength, another indication of her value as a woman.
It is seldom that the Bedouin husband will tell his wife where he is going… or when he is coming back. Nor will a wife ask. The comings and goings of a man are not considered the affair of the woman.
And so it seems; according to another Bedouin proverb,
“The braid must never go before the mustache.”
* * * *
Fadiyah’s daughter Jamilah, also wears her black hair in a long plait. She removes her long chiffon scarf, unravels her braid, whisking her fingers through her waist-long black hair.
Jamilah is an exquisite looking girl of 16. Of course, no man is allowed to see her like this.
I watch her stunning profile from my dark corner of the tent. Jamilah’s body is small, dark and delicate; her perfectly formed breasts peeking through her hair. It is her spirit, her youthful look of determination.
The perfect composition standing just before me… If only I could photograph her now.
Rashidah, page 23
… being a foreign woman, as well as a photographer, staying in Muslim societies has given me access to the worlds of both the men and women. I’m often invited by the men to a cup of tea or a meal in their open living rooms; and just as well, allowed to be in the female quarters, where a male photographer would never be permitted.
But as I sit among this group of men, I know it is better to keep silent, and speak only when spoken to.
One of them passes me a tiny glass filled to the brim with the usual, over-sweetened tea. The other men talk quietly between themselves; as an Israeli, it gives me an extra advantage; as Arabic has several similarities to Hebrew. And along with the vocabulary I’ve picked up from different journeys to Egypt and other Middle-eastern countries, by now I am able to catch onto parts of their conversations.
This is the traditional forum where the majority of Bedouin social and business deals take place. It is also here that confidential matters of the community are discussed together with the sheikh, and a sheikh’s reputation is built over a period of time in his father’s tent. The men often visit one another for hours during the course of a day; their tea ceremonies, a daily pastime…”
Rashidah, page 20
“… My first trip to the mountains of Sinai was in the month of October; and it was the first time I had met the Al-Khalifa family.
The father of the family, Sayid, is known as ‘the wise old man of Sinai.’ His family resides in a cluster of Bedouin tents just near the main road to the Santa KatherinaMonastary. I was eventually ‘adopted’ by the family and honoured with an Arabic name.
“I think we shall call you Ayishah,” as Sayid had said to me that day, – in the name of the youngest and most beloved wife of the Prophet Mohammad.
“Of course… Ayishah! The name fits you well… it means ‘living’ in Arabic. You have just that shine in your eyes…”