If things had gone a little differently, Tina Boyadjieva might still be in Jordan right now. The photographer visited Jordan this March, right around the time the world was coming to terms with COVID.
While in Petra, an archaeological site in the Jordanian desert, she had to figure out how to get home and not stay stuck in a foreign country with no timetable for return. Tina had to find a way to get an internet connection so she could book a flight to get home. The only reason she found one was because a sandstorm pushed her out of the camp she stayed at.
Those 48 hours [before leaving] were definitely filled with a lot of emotion, because the only reason that I found myself in a hotel with WIFI was because a sandstorm came and destroyed the camp where I was staying. We had to hide in the only stone building until a pickup truck large enough for everyone could come and take us out. I grabbed my Pelican with my camera and my passport and left the rest behind. I already had a backup plan for a safe hotel in town so I just went there and actually right on time. I have been in a number of unexpected situations when travelling, so I wasn’t scared, I was just trying to figure out how to get on a flight.
Using her phone to try and book a Royal Jordanian flight, Tina first eliminated some less-than-desirable options. Her initial plan was to fly through Saudi Arabia. That way she risked being stuck as a white female with a U.S. passport. Happily, Tina found a flight to London and soon was on her way to New York.
I bought a very expensive one-way ticket through London, which was the last flight to Europe on March 16th, the day the country was shutting down. I also had to think of worst-case scenario where I would stay if I got stuck in Jordan, and although being with the Bedouins for a few days was fun, I really don’t think I could manage it for months. So, I was happy and lucky that my Bedouin guides were able to find me a car to drive me to [the capital] Amman in the middle of the night and so I made it to the last flight to London out of the country and then off to NYC.
The first thing Tina did when she got state-side was have a drink and call her family. She also finally got to unwind after what was an eventful first trip to Petra, a place with millennia-old temples and gorgeous desert vistas. We didn’t want to overshadow what a great trip it was, with a lot of research for Tina to truly get the experience she wanted.
I did not want to be a regular tourist and stay in a hotel in town. I researched other alternatives for weeks and found out that there are certain Bedouin camps open to foreigners where you can stay in tents and have your meals cooked by local women. Of course, you have to be very careful and ensure you go to a real camp and not a scam, but I was lucky to find an authentic one.
Authentic is a great way to describe Tina’s experience. She ate local food, drank tea by the fire, and heard stories from the villagers. As you can imagine, she also took some photographs. One, in particular, stood out to her alma mater, which featured her work in an exhibition this past year.
The International Center of Photography in NYC, where I went to school, started an IG initiative in March called #icpconcerned. It was meant to reflect life during the lockdown, social initiatives, protests, etc. I added the hashtag on several of the images I posted from Jordan and a few months later they contacted me that one of my images was selected for an exhibit.
They selected 1000 total images from 50,000 submitted and organized them as the first exhibit to take place at the ICP’s new location on Bowery street.
Though she almost got the scare of a lifetime, Tina won’t need to write up a script for her own “Castaway” experience anytime soon. Back in the Western world, Tina continues to appreciate people and places that are vastly different from those in her own world. Once all this is over, I’m sure she’ll want to go back.
I am always fascinated by different cultures, and ways of life, especially those who look and live in ways completely different from ours in the Western world. The Bedouins I met in Petra were literally like a life story I had read from the adventure books in my childhood.
See more of Tina’s work on her website.