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.