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…”