“She is almost white like you and she goes to school, so she is educated” , Sheikh Saleem Hamid Ambe Somota Al Mahri told me, he then grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes with seriousness and said:“Please, take my daughter with you to your country and leave Tanya with me here. She will become a good Muslim.”

“Don´t leave me here!” Tanya shrieked half jokingly since she had gone through quite a demanding time since we arrived to this small Bedu settlement Al Arabah and I answered our new guide quite weary knowing his daughter was only 12 years old: “It is haram (forbidden) in my country. You have to be 18 years old to be able to marry and we cannot have more than one wife.”

Sheikh Saleem looked very surprised and tried again to persuade me again, since in his book of life, it would be a good move for a father to marry his daughter to what he most likely thought was a life together with a well to do foreigner. Somebody who not only could take care of his daughter but also one who would take care of him and the rest of his family. This move I can fully understand. It is a question of pure survival and there´s a saying among the Bedu which says it all:

“A guest fed in one’s own tent today may be the one who can provide food tomorrow.”

Read more on Explorer Mikael Strandberg's blog

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