' "Where you staying?" the Bedouin asked. "Why you not stay with me tonight - in my cave." He seemed enthusiastic. And we were looking for adventure.' Thus begins Marguerite van Geldermalsen's story of how a New Zealand-born nurse became the wife of Mohammad Abdallah Othman, a Bedouin souvenir-seller of the Manaja(h) tribe, and lived with him - and their children - and a community of about one hundred families - in the ancient caves of Petra in Jordan. It was 1978 and she and a friend were travelling through the Middle East when Marguerite met the charismatic Mohammad and decided that he was the man for her. Their home was a lofty two thousand year old cave carved into the red rock of a hillside. She became the resident nurse and learned to live like the Bedouin: cooking over fires, hauling water on donkeys and drinking sweet black tea, and over the years she became as much of a curiosity as the cave-dwellers with tourists such as Mary Lovell and Frank Mc Court encouraging her to tell this, her extraordinary story.
Marguerite van Geldermalsen is from Nelson, New Zealand. In 1978 she married Mohammad Abdallah and moved into his Nabataean cave. They had three children. She was widowed in 2002. She now divides her time between Sydney, Australia and Jordan.