Photographer, artist and model Imke Ligthart shared some images, impressions and discoveries from her journey through the Jordan desert. We sat down with her in Ibiza to talk about the trip.
Imke Ligthart has been recently nominated for the Dutch Photography Awards, based on her compilation of photographs documenting a nomadic travelling throughout the desert in Jordan. Although never considered as much more than a good way of recording her travels and time spent on her own, her photographs seem to capture the alternative lifestyle, away from civilization and transitioning into a new, inward one.
The time, she spent travelling, in her own words, was like being ´surrounded by nothing and being able to find something´, would turn out to be one of the most creative times in her life. Choosing to settle down in Ibiza, she was happy to share with us her own impressions about the Middle East and wild horses.
From the images, it looks like travel straight through the desert. Is that right? Was this your first trip to Jordan?
Yes, it was! My first time in the Middle East in fact.
From where to where did you travel?
I flew from Ibiza to Amman, the capital of Jordan. From there I took a 6 hours bus drive to the Wadi Rum desert. I stayed for a month and after this, I went for another week to explore the rest of the country.
What drove you to travel through this desert?
A friend of mine told me 5 years ago about his mother who lives in the desert with horses. This always stayed in my mind and this year I had a strong feeling to meet her, to visit the desert, to be around horses. When I contacted her, we were strangers to each other, she told me that I am welcome as long as I want. So there I went, living the bedouin life for a month.
Actually I didn't know why I was drawn to the desert. I guess I wanted to be surrounded by nothing, to be able to find something in myself I guess. I didn't look up anything on the Internet and had no idea what to find. I thought I would see only sand, I expected to feel bored and lonely being in the desert for such a long time. But the opposite was true and time was passing too fast.
How did you travel? By car or by horse?
I travelled about 11 days by horse and other days by car, on foot and with camels. Mostly there was a jeep around to carry some mattress and blankets, water and food.
How was the food? Did you discover any new flavours on your trip?
Any dish that stuck in your mind?
The food was delicious but a part of its taste came definitely by the full experience of cooking. Cooking under the stars on an open fire after a long day under the sun, I guess that's one big flavour on itself.
What about the culture in Jordan? How was your interaction with locals? What can we learn from them?
Bedouin are so generous! I have been welcomed as a family member. I learned a lot about sharing, something that's definitely different in western society. I felt very safe and that has to do with the way the community works. But also I find it complicated. The difference between men and women is quite big, its difficult to understand for me as a western feminist. I have been in a very traditional village/area where you won’t see any women in the streets. ever. I was the only one next to my host and it was kind of accepted because we’re western but it felt uncomfortable. Actually I could compare it a bit to quarantine in Spain now. It was different in the desert even though there I wouldn't see local women either, they are inside. Also, I felt very aware of the clothes I was wearing. It made me more aware of being a woman who is seen by a man. Wearing something that's tight felt provocative or disrespectful for example.
Did you encounter any unexpected adventure?
Many! It was one big adventure. Like I said I had no expectations. The moment we entered the desert on the horses is hard to describe. It was above all my expectations, bigger than my dreams. My host Brenda left with the jeep and suddenly it was only me and one other guy alone in the desert. They pointed us in the direction about where to go and that's it. How could I ever expect to drive an Arabic sterling without a guide in the desert! My imagination was that a desert landscape must be boring, but now I know that this desert must be one of - or maybe it is the most beautiful place on earth! That was just the first unexpected adventure.
What was the most valuable thing you brought with you?
Anything you did not need at all?
My camera! I made an art project that I am very fond of and I can proudly say that I got nominated for the Dutch Photography Awards. Other than that I didn't need much.
Are you going back?