#828 The Kiwi who married a Bedouin

Marguerite van Geldermalsen

Marguerite van Geldermalsen; photo clip from Meet the Author

Many young travelers seek adventures in places that seem exotic to them, opening doors to cultures and people they would never meet in the town they came from. But not many of them end up making their home in a 2,000-year-old cave, with a spouse whose language and background are so completely different.

Marguerite van Geldermalsen, a Registered Nurse, and a friend set out from New Zealand in 1978. They stayed too long in the ancient city of Petra, missing the last bus from the tourist site. That changed everything, at least for van Geldermalsen.

Mohammad Abdallah, who sold souvenirs to tourists, offered them shelter for the night. The Kiwi and the Bedouin fell in love and married. His cave was their home for the first seven years of their life together. Two of their three children were born there. In 1985 the Jordanian government moved the Bedouin tribes that inhabited Petra to a new village, outside the heritage site.

Years later, after Mohammad’s death and at the urging of people fascinated by her story, van Geldermalsen wrote a memoir of her years in Petra. Married to a Bedouin is a loving account of the people who embraced her, of her beloved husband and children, and of her years running a clinic for the Bedouin people.

In a 2011 interview with novelist Matt Rees, van Geldermalsen credits Patti Miller’s workshop and her book, Writing Your Life: A Journey of Discovery, with helping her learn how to write a memoir.

Van Geldermalsen records a way of life that no longer exists. Life changed for the Bedouin tribes when they were moved from their traditional homes and into a modern village. Married to a Bedouin is an extraordinary story from a very special woman. Watch a video of her on Meet the Author to get a sense of the low-key, plain-speaking author who set aside the familiar to embrace her husband’s people.

She gives me hope that the more we know of the ordinary life of people in countries so different from our own, the more open and accepting we will become.

Thank you, Donna, for loaning me the book.

Follow Married to a Bedouin on Facebook. See a photo of van Geldermalsen on Flickr, at her souvenir stand in Petra.

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