Khaznat al-Faroun at Petra, Jordan. Photo taken by Calvin College professor Bert DeVries

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Lost City of Stone

News: March 24, 2005

The Bedouin Tribes of Petra

Photographs by Vivian Ronay

Sheik Sa'ad Ihweimil Salim
Sheik Sa'ad Ihweimil Salim
© Vivian Ronay Photography

When Petra: Lost City of Stone opens at Calvin College in April, visitors will be transported back nearly 2000 years to the ancient city of Petra. To complement this historical perspective, a small exhibition of photographs by Washington, D.C. based photographer Vivian Ronay, will give insight into the Petra of today.

Over the years a very small number of families of Bedouin people known as the Bedoul — herders and farmers, took up residence in tents and modified caves scattered around the city's spectacular rock-cut monuments.

In 1985 Petra was declared a World Heritage Site. Anticipating that tourism would soar and concerned with the site's preservation, Jordanian authorities worked with the Bedoul to relocate them to the newly constructed village of Umm Sayhun, a few kilometers from Petra. Since then, the Bedoul have undergone numerous changes to their lifestyle. Some have shifted completely to a market economy in support of the tourism and archaeological work at Petra, while others still follow traditional ways. These images document the adaptive lifestyles of these Bedouin peoples as they undergo transition amid the "rediscovery" of Petra by archaeologists, preservationists, and tourists.

Photographer Vivian Ronay discusses her artwork with guests at a recent sneak-peak presentation held March 30th.
Photographer Vivian Ronay talks with guests during a recent sneak-peak presentation held March 30th.

On display are a selection of Ronay's photographs from 1988 to 1992 and from more recent visits to Petra in 2001 and 2003. Vivian Ronay, who has worked for the Washington Times and, since 1994, as a freelance editorial and commercial photographer, has documented the lives of the Bedoul in Petra since 1986. The White House News Photographers Association awarded Ronay the project grant award in 2003. Ronay was also awarded the Sam Abell scholarship of the Santa Fe Photography workshop in 2001 for this work.

For more of Ronay's photographs at Petra , see

Waves of sand