Monday, February 1, 2010

Law in the Desert

Last week, I enjoyed the company of Allan and Rachel Steyer, who were visiting Jordan for the first time from California. Allan practices law in San Francisco and his daughter, Rachel, is spending a semester studying Arabic in Amman. The three of us spent two days in Amman and Jerash and then, after dropping Rachel off at school, Allan and I took off on an adventure to the south!

The highlight of our southern trip was a visit with Harb Salem in Diseh, the village on the northern edge of the Wadi Rum Protected Reserve. We spent our day with Harb touring the desert by jeep and over lunch had a fascinating discussion regarding the Bedouin justice system. Harb described a system of three courts - one for blood crimes, such as murder and assault, a second for crimes committed against women, such as harassment or more serious offences, and a third for civil crimes like theft or defamation. Through a simple, tribally accepted system of defendant and plaintiff testimonies, most problems within the Bedouin community are solved by one judge whose knowledge and experience are trusted by the entire community. Both Allan and I were intrigued by the similarities and differences to the American justice system and found that a gorgeous day in the desert was particularly enjoyable due to lessons learned and stories shared!


  1. Hey Lena,
    I have fond memories of sitting under a tent in Wadi Rum trading stories. I still remember the joke about the man carrying a backpack on his back whilst riding the donkey. What place was he from again? We went through it and what was said about it proved true, they're awful drivers and larakins! I think it started with a T.