The Last Word | Desert Hospitality

I’m sitting on the hotel step with today’s Scripture readings in front of me when Salah, the Bedouin guide, arrives. It’s Sunday, and there are no churches in the town of Wadi Mousa, in southern Jordan. These readings are the nearest I’ll get to Mass today. Salah is taking me on a day’s tour of the Wadi Rum, the vast area of mountains and sand that runs between Aqaba and the ancient city of Petra. He wears traditional Bedouin garb: red and white keffiyeh wound around the crown of his head, and a long black garment with loose white trousers underneath. He sports a thick black moustache.

We start off in a jeep. Soon Salah pulls in at a roadside establishment and gets out, explaining, “Bread for lunch.” Shortly before, he had uttered a wet sneeze into his hand, and something lurches inside when I realize that hand will hold the bread I’ll be eating. It won’t come in cellophane. As I grope through my fanny pack for hand sanitizer, he returns, swinging a bag with a round flatbread inside. He tears off a chunk, breaks it into two, and passes one piece to me through the driver’s window. The bread is still warm, and it’s crusty and chewy. “Not made in bakery,” he says. “Made in fire. In the ground.” My day has begun with the breaking of the bread after all....

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About the Author

Mary Frances Coady is the author of The Practice of Perfection (Coteau Press).