Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bedouins And The Syrian Desert

The picture is from Derounian's album. 1924.

The Bedouin person is well known for his hospitality, so when the guest comes there are three expressions for pouring coffee.
Bedouin, derived from the Arabic badawī بدوي, a generic name for a desert-dweller, is a term generally applied to Arab nomadic groups, who are found throughout most of the desert belt extending from the Atlantic coast of the Sahara via the Western Desert, Sinai, and Negev to the eastern coast of the Arabian desert. It is occasionally used to refer to non-Arab groups as well, notably the Beja of the African coast of the Red Sea.

Starting in the 1950s and 1960s, many Bedouin started to leave the traditional, nomadic life to work and live in the cities of the Middle East, especially as grazing ranges have shrunk and population levels have grown. In Syria, for example, the Bedouin way of life effectively ended during a severe drought from 1958 to 1961, which forced many Bedouin to give up herding for standard jobs. Similarly, government policies in Egypt, oil production in Libya and the Gulf, and a desire for improved standards of living have had the effect that most Bedouin are now settled citizens of various nations, rather than nomadic herders and farmers.

The Bedouins were traditionally divided into related tribes, each led by a Sheikh. Traditionally they would herd camels, sheep, and goats, while riding on highly prized horses, moving according to the seasons for grazing lands. For centuries and into the early 20th century the Bedouin were known for their fierce resistance to outside government and influence.


Sharrukin said...


Indeed that is a great topic, Bedouins are nomads, most of Syrian Bedouins have become sedentary during the last century.

Are you positive, when assuming that there is no more nomadism in Syria? If you are, then would they be called semi-nomads or not even.

I thought I read something related to exiled minorities from Turkey (genocide), and sheltered by the Syrian Bedouins. What can you tell about that? Thanks

Best regards,
E. Kaso

aleppian said...

I copied the paragraph from web encyclopedia. But I think that there is neither positive and nor negative meaning. They would be called nomads if still moving in the desert (if nomads implies poor population, here we contrast ourselves with rich population! ), and if settled in cities, they are more rightly called just Bedouins, with lessening of nomadic meaning, as this group has already its own traditional and cultural values.

As to minorities which I mentioned and then erased, there will be a bigger post in the coming months, so I don't want here to mention a little info.
It is real.

Sharrukin said...

Hi again,

I will reformulate my question, while defining nomads as people who live in the desert, changing location seasonly. Do you think they still exist in Syria.

By the way I can't wait to read your article about the armenians...and the "suite des évenements" (events that we know).

E. Kaso

aleppian said...

I meant to say that nomads, and gypsies here in Syria at least are different meanings. Bedouins, are the group of people "desert dwelling", and they are moving seasonally, but they contrast themselves by having genuine Arab charasteristics, they raise herds, have rich cultural past.
Gypsies, are other poor people who don't live on raising herds, moving from place to place, just to change the place.
We see in Syria both of them, and not amazing that Bedouins drive luxurious cars in the desert or venues near to big cities in Syria. They speak also pure Arabic, the one I like to hear always. They are tribes, families, dynasties, living interrelatedly.