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The Jordanian desert's other delight: sex tourism

Sign of the times or serious taboo? Female sex tourists sample the delights of Jordan's desert.

“In the Middle East they have this opinion of Western women that they are very loose, and all of their suspicions are coming true in Wadi Rum. Women definitely aren’t making a good name for themselves down there,” she said.

Many women new to the region say it is difficult to immediately see the cultural divides that can create problems. For example, Pia, an Italian who had worked in Jordan for several months before traveling to Petra on vacation, admitted that she was still “ignorant."

“I went there just like I was in a Western country,” she said. When she fell for her Bedouin guide, he admitted that he was in a relationship with another woman who had returned to Italy. He said, however, that he was in an open relationship and that he was free to date.

“The Bedouin men give you the impression that they are free and have the same mentality as Western people. They tell you, ‘I am not like other Arab people, we are free.’ … Of course, it’s fake, it’s a lie.”

Pia said she discovered this when she got into a quarrel with another guide because she rejected his advance. As revenge, the slighted guide sent her phone number to the other guide’s girlfriend back in Italy. Pia stopped her flirtations with the guide after that incident. Later, she said she called his girlfriend in Italy and learned that the woman was paying his rent and planning to give up her acting career in Italy to move to Petra for him. The guide told Pia that his main reason for keeping the relationship with the other woman was because she paid his rent.

Walking the canyons of Petra, it’s not uncommon to see many foreign women swoon over the local men. At Love Lion, a snack shop in the ancient city of Petra, a young, female tourist from the U.S. approached a Bedouin man. “Excuse me,” she said, embarrassed. “But you have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. Can I please take your picture?” The vendor already had a serious girlfriend in Portugal.

Many Bedouin men have little modesty about their appeal to women.

“There’s the cowboy in the American movies and he knows how to ride horses very well and deal with nature. He’s something different than the city man. In the movies, women fall in love with this man and maybe have sex with him in the end of the movie,” said Saleem Ali, a tour guide in Wadi Rum. “Bedouin men are pretty good looking, they climb very well, they ride horses and camels very well, and they know how make tea and cook, and deal with nature. So it’s not the fault of the girl that she falls in love with the man. It’s nature.”

In an essay Jacobs explains that Western women tend to see Bedouins as "real" men who fit neatly into “traditional stereotypes of masculinity.”

When Anne, an American who asked not to use her real name, went to the Western desert in Egypt for the first time, she said it was difficult not to become smitten.