The Bedouin of Petra

Part of the Petra exhibition.

Abu Gassim
© Vivian Ronay

Photographs by Vivian Ronay
October 18, 2003 - July 6, 2004
Akeley Gallery

Evocative color photographs taken by photojournalist Vivian Ronay between 1986 and 2003 document the Bdoul group of five sedentary Bedouin tribes living around the archaeological site of Petra in Jordan.


© Vivian Ronay

The Bedouin of Petra, an exhibition of absorbing color photographs, opened on October 18, 2003, in the Akeley Gallery at the American Museum of Natural History. On view through July 6, 2004, the images offered a compelling look at the life of the Bdoul group of five tribes living now in Um Sayhun, a small village near the archaeological site of the ancient city of Petra--literally carved from red sandstone in the harsh desert's cliffs and gorges in southern Jordan.

The exhibition comprised 28 contemporary photographs taken by Vivian Ronay, a photojournalist who, for some 15 years, has been documenting the lives of 300 families in Petra who moved in the mid-1980s out of the 2,000-year-old caves where they had lived for many generations.



Bedding Baby
© Vivian Ronay

This extremely rare look at Arab Bedouin life is a record of the transition to "modern life" from their small rural environment to one of cinderblock houses with central plumbing, television, and access to cars and pickup trucks. The images included an intimate scene of several women preparing a meal; Bedoul children herding goats over rough desert; neighbors chatting at twilight; and a solitary figure in dessert garb, dwarfed by the landscape of sand, rock, and mountains.

The Bedouin of Petra is made possible by the generosity of the Arthur Ross Foundation and accompanies the exhibition Petra: Lost City of Stone.