The Bedouin are a very polite people. They do not want to say bad things to you or be the bearer of bad news. So they do not tell you anything that is bad. Ever. This is a problem if you need to know bad news of if something is not quite right, so that you can do something about it. This is what we do in England. This is not what they do in Bedouin land.
Our guesthouse is in the mountains. It is cold in the mountains in winter. We need good heaters for the rooms. We buy heaters. I am happy. The Bedouin are happy. The customers are not happy. Why? Because the heaters have the wrong connectors to fit the Egyptian electrical sockets. So the heaters cannot be used so the customers are not warm in their rooms so the customers are cold so the customers are not happy. The Bedouin do not tell me the customers are not happy because the heaters have the wrong sockets because that means giving me bad news. So the heaters sit there, all through the winter. Unused.
I arrive in the guesthouse and am looking forward to using the new heaters in my room. Then the story starts to come out. The heaters are not working. Problems with the connectors. I ask why they did not get adaptors or change the plugs or tell me about the problem so I can make a decision.
The Bedouin give me a dozen or so reasons, mostly to do with this, or that, or something else (their mother) then they go into a long discourse about how everything is good and finally they try to change the subject to anything that does not involve heaters.
The problem is that if they tell me the heaters have the wrong connectors, that means bad news and also the possibility that someone, somewhere, should be blamed for this calamity. Therefore if they do not tell me, the problem will go away or at least be put back to next week (which may as well be next year for the Bedouin). Anything that will increase a problem is anathema to the Bedouin. If a Bedouin starts to tell you how wonderful everything is then you know there is a problem somewhere and you need to delicately work out what it is. A simple problem to me may be regarded as a huge nightmare to them. This means you have to think of anything that could have gone wrong and find out whether it has in fact gone wrong, or slightly wrong, or possibly wrong or maybe might go wrong if any number of possible events take place. This is why, when I come to the guesthouse, the first conversation takes around two days.
Adaptors are brought from Dahab via our Bedouin Bus; and the heaters are fitted with them. They work. The customers are happy which means I am happy which means the Bedouin are happy. Life goes on.
Bedouin Paths runs ethical hiking tours out of their Bedouin Camp in St. Katherine in Sinai. Visit www.bedouinpaths.com for more details.