Bedouin life has been slowly changing from a traditional nomadic existence to a more settled permanent one. Al-Maria's family effectively illustrates this transition.
Al-Maria adjusts to her Bedouin family's ancient way of life precisely at the same time that its members must adjust to modernity. The family had been experiencing what Al-Maria describes as "a long, slow retreat into the concrete domesticity of modern sedentary life." Not all is bad: "Compared with the poverty they were used to on their travels, not having to carry your weight in water was positively luxuriant."
But convenience has a price, paid largely by the women. The style of dress changed, for one thing. Bedouin girls in the family used to wear bright calico dresses without full-body veils. Where they used only to cover their faces they now covered their whole bodies in black, a new custom to protect their honor (and identities) now that they lived in closer proximity to neighbors with "forked tongues."