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Heart of Edom

A journey through the land of ancient hospitality.

We veer off the King’s Highway onto a tiny and entirely unassuming village hugging a ridge jutting toward the Dead Sea.

Baseira is the name, and like most villages in Jordan is home to narrow roads, numerous shops, and friendly Jordanian children waving hello at sight of us foreigners. It doesn’t take long, just one kilometer deeper into the village, until it’s uniqueness stands out. Standing alongside modern houses and cars lie a vast complex of ancient structures, rooms, arches, and alleyways dating back to the time of the Moabites. Uncovering the village’s history, a startling realization is made. Here lies the ancient capitol of the Edomites, founded by Esau himself, brother of Jacob. I find it amusing that such remains lie almost forgotten, but nonetheless in plain site. For a region situated in biblical legends, we are curious to see if their traditions have changed with the times, or have been passed down unchanged since the day Esau journeyed here.

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Our roadtrip continues to the southwest, past rugged, golden hills bountiful in olive trees. We are headed to a Bedouin camp on the edge of the plateau, with views overlooking westwards towards the lowest spot on earth. Our drive is quickly halted, though, as a group of over 100 sheep make their way across the narrow gravel road. The shepherd then makes his way over the ridge and down to the road, using his age-old traditions of mastering the sheep to lead them on a save path. The passages of Isaiah come alive more now than ever before - “He tends his flock like a shepherd, He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart.” The gentle shepherd, though at times stern out of necessity, leads the confused creatures to safety, often without their knowledge of so.

How I feel like those dumb sheep too, and how I should let go and let the Shepherd lead me.

The Bedouin camp of Eid Lhada appears to our right.

The typical black and white striped tents of Bedouins and stone constructions of the local rock are what first catch our attention. “Welcome!” Gleefully shouts the host. We clamber our kids out the car, this time more ungraceful than others. Zion really had a deal for his dinosaur sticker book at the moment and had a short panic when he exited the car without it. Once seated inside the pleasant communal area, we had a pleasant chat with the host, also a geologist by trade. Together, with his father and brother, they run the place, allowing visitors the chance to experience their beautiful land in a personal way. Following tea and chatting, we made our way to our living quarters - a simple stone structure with three mattresses on the floor. It will definitely suffice as we are looking forward to unwinding down.

The landscape seen around us is known as the Dana biosphere reserve, the largest in Jordan. A giant wadi turned to a maginficient canyon forms here, with three distinct biomes.

Supper, as we’ve come to realize for the Bedouins, begins at least 8 pm following the sunset. And for good reason, as the chance to enjoy the view during the golden hour is worth the hunger - as well as the fact that the flies depart once the sun goes down. Dinner is bountiful inside the communal area, with a large selection of chicken, rice, cooked vegetables, yogurt, and salad to choose from. One item in particular caught my attention - lentil soup. A staple for every Bedouin meal, often served at the beginning. I am reminded how Esau, in his hunger, sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup. Several thousand years later, and in the land of Esau, the descendants of the Edomites, are still eating the staple.

Could it be a reminder of what Esau lost? Or, simply, they really like lentil soup.

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