Colorful tent dwellings make up the Bedouin village. // © 2011 Kfar Hnokdim
As Israel has become a medley of peoples and cultures, there are many lenses through which travelers can view the country. But one of the most unusual options is by way of the Bedouin, a historically nomadic people who call the heart of the desert their home.
I discovered this out-of-the-ordinary excursion — which has grown incredibly popular over the last few years — on a recent trip to the Judean desert. While there are a few different Bedouin-style retreats scattered across Israel’s southern region, I stayed at Kfar Hanokdim, opportunely located between the city of Arad and ancient Masada.
The authentic oasis is lined with date-bearing palm trees and lush, biblically inspired gardens. Colorful tent dwellings doused in Arabic cloth rich with deep reds and regal gold also cover the village grounds. Every direction overlooked an endless desert landscape and, off in the distance, I even spotted a heard of camels.
Once I arrived inside the village, I was escorted into a Bedouin tent to meet other guests and sip tea spiced with herbs around an open fire. The hosts then prepared coffee while intermittently sharing traditional Bedouin legends and stories.
After our warm greeting, we journeyed into the enchanting and seemingly infinite desert on a 40-minute camel trek.
Later that night, a traditional Bedouin dinner was served — we sat on soft mattresses on the floor around a large tray called a sania. In the center was magluba, a seasoned rice and vegetable dish served with pita bread and accompanied with an assortment of traditional Middle Eastern salads. The next course included grilled meats and, lastly, our meal concluded with fresh fruits, tea and coffee.
The sleeping accommodations at Kfar Hanokdim truly exemplify the authentic — and once nomadic — Bedouin lifestyle. Guests are invited to stay in traditional Bedouin tents underneath the serene starlit sky. The tents are fully equipped with rugs and comfortable mattresses.
For guests who prefer more traditional lodgings, Kfar Hanokdim also supports a Bedouin-style desert resort on the outskirts of the village. This 35-cabin resort provides more modern comforts while still allowing for a tranquil desert experience.
Kfar Hanokdim’s most recent additions are designer lodges that hold up to eight occupants. They are fully furnished and include a rooftop veranda from which guests can survey the desert scenery and take in the fresh air.
Before I left Kfar Hanokdim the next morning, our hosts served an incredible Sheik-style breakfast that rivaled the Bedouin dinner I ate the night before. Breakfast included pita bread, spices, Turkish coffee, fresh fruit and vegetables in addition to a lavish assortment of cheeses, jams and chocolate.
Currently, Kfar Hanokdim is offering two packages for groups of two or more. The first package caters to those looking for a day trip excursion and includes the initial Bedouin tea gathering, a camel or donkey trek and dinner for $75 per person. The second package includes a camel or donkey trek, dinner, sleeping accommodations in either a tent or cabin and breakfast for about $120 per person. Visitors must make reservations in advance.
This Bedouin adventure is a cultural opportunity of a lifetime and serves as a relaxing escape, even if only momentarily, from our everyday technology-driven lifestyles. n