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 Desert Village Life
Joan Almond on Desert Village Life

My first trip to the Middle East in 1976 began as a quest which has almost turned into an obsession: to show a side of life that we, in our comfortable homes in the developed West, are losing touch with. I have always felt that family life is at the core of the whole human structure. In North America, we have lost many of our traditions but out there, in the oases and deserts of the Middle East, they have not; it's still strong: the family comes first! Women, as always, hold the whole thing together. They're much healthier, mentally and physically, than the men. Women plant the seeds that grow into the vegetables they eat. They fetch the wood that will start the fires for the family meal they're going to cook. Then they eat by themselves in the kitchen, and it seems to me they're just as glad. First of all, their marriages are arranged
and usually a fait accompli by the time they are fourteen—so it's an entirely different structure, held together by roots, rituals, traditions which no one would dare to break. Life is hard, very hard, yes. But I have tried to show that out in the desert, they have spaceso precious! They have clean houses. They have the extended family: not-so-lucky relatives can move in. Although the men rule, the women in fact have it under control. They may be in the background, but they are the healthy ones, both mentally and physically. We have much to learn from these tremendously simple and beautiful people.
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