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Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

  • Zlatica Hoke

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.

The Paradise resort is about three years old. Nestled in a sun-bathed picturesque valley, with amenities such as this swimming pool, it has quickly attracted local families, especially those with children, and the business has taken off.

"Thank God, we the project managers in Jericho, depend on local tourism. Israeli Arabs, Nazareth, Jerusalem and Haifa.... these are the people who visit us. But if we speak about foreign tourism, it's not too much. I don't know the problem. Maybe there is a lack of support from tourism authorities or maybe there is no investment in tourism. I really don't know," said Nadia Mlihat.

Milhat, who owns the resort is one of a few Bedouin women to strike out on their own. Although most Bedouins have left the desert since the middle of the last century, and are adapting to city life, women's freedoms are often curtailed by traditions that keep them at home.

"My message to the woman, specially the Bedouin woman, is that nothing is hard, nothing is impossible. They used to say that it's impossible that this business will succeed. Look at it - it's successful," she said.

Mlihat inherited almost two hectares of land from her family, and decided to make use of it by launching a tourist resort in the oasis city. In addition to 20 bedrooms, Paradise offers three swimming pools and a restaurant. It employs 12 people.

"We as young men stood hand in hand by the owner because she is running a resort which is not only a swimming pool resort, it offers several other services. If the director was a man, he couldn't have done what she did," said resort worker Fakhri Saadi.

Jericho's officials welcome the new business in town.

"The project of Mrs. Mlihat is an addition to the tourism projects in Jericho and the Jordan valley. It helps to support economic growth through attracting local tourism. It also helps in creating jobs for people in Jericho and the Jordan valley," said Kazem al - Mouqat, from the Jericho Chamber of Commerce.

Mlihat hopes to inspire other women in the region to become entrepreneurial. But she acknowledges that family support can be an important asset.

"I tell them [the women] nothing is impossible. Just like me, they can succeed. They will make it, if they have the intention and the determination. My family supported me. My husband, my children, and all my relatives stood by me," said Milhat.

More than 210,000 Bedouins still live in small communities in Israel's Negev desert. The government's efforts to resettle them into towns have met with mixed success.

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