Imagine not having a permanent home. Or, try to imagine being at home wherever you are. It can be quite a hard exercise for many of us, who live in our houses and apartments, surrounded by our stuff, travelling the same paths to work, to the supermarket, to our friends’ homes and apartments. A Danish infant will as they fall asleep in their cradle, look up into the white painted ceiling, or into the covering of their pram. But the view from this beautifully decorated leather cradle must have been quite different: blue skies and wide deserts. The cradle was collected among nomadic Bedouins in Qatar in 1959, and is an example of the portable nature of Bedouin life. It is light, and the straps are designed to be tied to camel-saddles, hung from tent poles, or slung over a shoulder.
I wonder how the world looks, to people who have grown up in this way. What is ‘home’, when it is not the four walls many of us associate with the word? The nomadic lifestyle is no longer practiced in Qatar; the development boom following the expansion of the oil industry has changed Qatar dramatically in recent years, and the babies who slept in this cradle are now all grown up, and live a life that is more like the one we know in Denmark, than that of their parents and grandparents. As skyscrapers shoot out of the sand, how do they think of their nomadic past? Do they feel at home surrounded by brick and cement? Do they miss being untied to a specific place? I do not know. But I find that thinking about a small child, sleeping in this beautiful leather cradle decorated with cowrie shells, feeling as at home as any child, sleeping peacefully, makes me smile.