Ghassab Al-Bedoul, 42, is a hippie style desert bedouin with sports long black dreadlocks to his shoulders rather than the traditional Jordanian headdress. And he is the eloquent host of “Couch surfers.” in fact, 1,200 travelers stayed at his place so far. Check his profile on the popular CouchSurfing.com travel website.
The site, which was founded in 2003, hosts a community of travelers who create profiles to share their extra couches or rooms with visitors. “Couch surfers” can then send a request to sleep on a couch rather than in a traditional hotel when they travel.
After spending many years traveling back and forth from Europe where he met travelers using the nontraditional lodging option, he thought, “Why not in Jordan?” About four years ago when he returned to Petra, he logged onto the site and posted, “I welcome you in my cave anytime” on his profile posted under the name Ghassab Al-Bedouine.
The same week he registered his cave on the website, he received five requests from potential travelers. The following week there were six more, and within the next few months, he was hosting more than 15 people, sometimes 20, a month at his cave in the mountains of Petra.
“Since I started, I think I’ve had over 1,200 people come stay at my cave,” said Al-Bedoul. “Not all from CouchSurfing, but they hear about me. It’s a pleasure to have people from all over the world to learn our culture. Just come and stay with us.”
The Bedouin people, who were predominately desert dwellers, have inhabited the caves around Petra for hundreds of years. The ancient city, carved into the side of a mountain, dates back to nearly the 6th century BC and was active through the time of the Roman Empire. Tourists from across the globe descend on the ruins every day.
The cave, which is no larger than 150 square feet, is uniquely modern. A row of solar-powered lights, a gift from a couch surfer, encircles the front of the cave entrance. When the sun sets past the Petra mountains, they are the only visible lights.
As for the bathrooms. When asking Al-Bedoul for the washrooms, he points to the mountains, and says, “far away please.” And when it’s time to sleep, Al-Bedoul lines the inside of his cave with thin mats. Everyone sleeps in the cave, which could easily fit around 10 people.
Al-Bedoul hosts his guests for free. It’s part of the CouchSurfing policy, but he’s done pretty well with gifts. Couch surfers often bring items from their home country to share with him. It’s also polite to chip in for food, gas and drinks.