Bedouin Lifestyle in Arab Countries
Bedouin is an English term that is derived from Arabic word Bedu or Badawiyin which refers to the one who lives in the desert or rather desert inhabitants.Fundamentally, the term differentiates the populations who base their livelihood on livestock keeping through natural graze from those with both urban and agricultural base. The Bedouin group is semi-nomadic having an ancestral trace in Syrian and Arabian deserts, and their territory extends from the wide North Africa deserts to the Middle East rocky deserts. It is traditionally divided into clans or tribes who share goats and camels herding common culture.Historically, various names have been used to refer to Bedouins like Old Testament Qedarites and the Assyrians called them Arabaa.Since the Islam beginning, in the Quran Bedouins are known as Aarab. Therefore, this paper will discuss the Bedouin culture and traditions
Incorporation of the ancient heritage of the Bedouin into current UAE preserves various facets such as values, food, poetry, and tribal system (Bedouin Adventures, 2010).). Although many Bedouins have relinquished their tribal and nomadic traditions and adapted to the modern lifestyle, they still practice traditional poetry, dances, music and other cultural practices.Desert camping and camels riding area common practice with Bedouins who live in proximity to wilderness areas or deserts.
There are many countries where the Bedouin communities live which include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Israel in the Middle East and Algeria, Sudan, Morocco, Libyaand Tunisia in North Africa and their population is approximately four million. Given the Bedouins’ herding lifestyle and oral poetic tradition they are seen as the authentic representatives of the Arab culture and they continuously hail from the ideal Arabs (Sina, 2007). In Egypt, Bedouins are referred to as Arabbut due to their extensive networks of kinships; Bedouins are distinct from other Arabs. The kinship systems provide this community with society support and basic survival necessities, and this ensured family and property protection and safety traditionally. The United Arab Emirates Bedouin people possess a rich history; they follow many traditions and are hospitable. One of the UAE founding cultures is the Bedouin, which has an essential role in the national identity of Emirati.
The life of Bedouin is pastoral, camel, goats, sheep, and cattle herding, and they seasonally migrate per the grazing conditions. During summer when the weather is hot and dry they move and pitch tents around the secure water sources while they move deeper into the desert during winter.Similar to all Arabs, the Bedouin base their relationship on their descent where their names comprise of their agnatic grandfather’s name, father’s name, and personal name. When women get married, they retain their father’s names while “bayt” which is the least residential unit takes its name after the male resident who is senior. The Bedouin are part of “buyuut” which are groups of patrilineal descentlinked by agnation forming larger lineages “afkhaadh”, “qabila” meaning tribes and tribal confederations. The patrilineal ancestor naming continues past five generations, and relations are conceptualized in descent groups concerning a partitioned genealogical model. Further, each patrilineal unit is internally divided providing a framework for resolving violent conflicts, marital and legal disputes.
Marriage is contracted within the bayt, and the ideal marriage is of close relatives who are between cousins as the Quran permits and the cousin marriages are believed to reinforce the minimal lineage authority and unity.Polygamy is allowed though it is not rampant as it is left for the old and wealthymen who can comfortably provide a household for each of their wives. The optimal domestic unit is an extended family of three generations, where the newly found nuclear family is allowed to stay with large internal unit till they can survive on their own.Whenever marital crisis are unbearable, and the only solution is divorce, either the wife or husband can initiate it, and the woman is entitled to go back to her father’s house for support and protection.Bedouin describe themselves as members of families and tribes where people have social classes which are according to profession and ancestry. Intermarriage within social classes israre though it is possible to move from one class to another.Regarding inheritance, half of the property is given to the son, the daughter gets a quarter and the other quarter is given to a near kin by the Quran precepts.Bringing up of young children is an extended family affair, and the children start helping in minor household chores at six or seven years and at adolescent they take up full working tasks.
Customarily, the tent being the home for Bedouins is partitioned by curtains into three sections: the family area, men’s area, and the kitchen. Guests are received and prepared for coffee by the host around the fireplace in the men’s section; this is the social life center for Bedouin. The welcome drink is tea while coffee which is prepared after a meal is the last drink and the food and drink serving shows the host’s generous hospitality. Indeed, the men go by the evening discussing their animals and updating each other with the current news while on the other hand women alongside their young children gather in the kitchen and family areas to get the main meal ready and bake bread(Bedouin Adventures,2010).). The guests gather in a common place, and they are served dinner which consists of rice andlamb or mutton chunks.
In the Bedouin society, women take up an essential position where their roles range from raising children, sheep herding, milking animals, and cooking. The women also spin yarn to make and weave clothes and the tent. On the contrary, men share stories and take coffee while gathered around the fire. Their discussion might include the Arabian stallions, hunting, saluki greyhound and other animals together with matters that are important and concern the Bedouin tribe.According to Bedouin tradition, in the gathering one of the men sings and recites poems while the host burns incense in an incense burner called mabkhara, passes it each guest who inhale and blow on their clothes with it to mark the end of the evening. Ideally, throughout the Bedouin history, the central form of expression was poetry where in the Islamic history the poetry was a representation of the standards for Arabic language and literary achievements. For the Bedouins, their traditional foods are dairy products, but they also trade practice barter trade to acquire agricultural foods from the people who practice farming.
A majority of the Bedouins are Muslimsalthough some of the societies in Jordan are Christians (Sina, 2007). Though there no mosques in the deserts the Bedouins pray from wherever they are facing Mecca when it is time for prayers. Ceremonies observed by Bedouin are naming of newborns, children circumcision, and weddings.They attribute sickness to many causes which include germ invasion, spiritual possession and elements imbalance in the body and to respond to this they prepare herbal medicines, wear amulets and also carry Quran inscriptions and in case, all this fails they seek western treatment. The Islamic practice on death is applied in cases of death, simple funeral rites and undifferentiated or unmarked graves. In clothing Bedouin, men are recognized by wearing a long “djellabaya”and head cover that is red-white(smagg) or purely white(aymemma). The women wear long dresses that are brightly colored but on leaving the house, they wear “abaya”, a long coat that is black in color and always cover their heads.Bedouin clothes are accustomedto the desert life that’s why they wear loose clothes to prevent sunburns and heat seizures (Bedouin Adventures, 2010).)The native language for Bedouin is Bedawi, which has different dialects which differ depending on the area particular group lives.
Bedouin Adventures. (2010). Bedouin Adventures. Bedouinadventures.com. Retrieved 17 April 2016, from http://www.bedouinadventures.com/about-us-1/our-bedouin-tribe
Sina, G. (2007). Bedouin Culture. Bedawi.com. Retrieved 17 April 2016, from http://www.bedawi.com/Bedouin_Culture_EN.html