Samstag, 9. Januar 2016

Bedouin woman from Turkmenistan, 1866

Bedouin, derived from the Arabic badawī بدوي, a generic name for a desert-dweller, is a term generally applied to Arab nomadic pastoralist 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. They constitute only a small portion of the total population of the Middle East although the area they inhabit is large due to their nomadic, or former nomadic lifestyle. Reductions in their grazing ranges and increases in their population, as well as the changes brought about by the discovery and development of oil fields in the region, have led many Bedouin to adopt the modern urban, sedentary lifestyle with its accompanying attractions of material prosperity.


Bedouins spread out over the pastures of the Arabian Peninsula in the centuries C.E., and are descendants from the first settlers of the South western Arabia (Yemen), and the second settlers of North-Central Arabia, claimed descendants of Ishmael, who are called the Qayis. The rivalry between both groups of the Bedouins has raged many bloody battles over the centuries.

The fertile crescent of Arabia was known for its lucrative import trade with southern Africa, which included items such as exotic herbs and spices, gold, ivory, and livestock. The oases of the Bedouins were often mobile markets of trade, as their lifestyle involved frequent migrating of the herds in search of greener pastures. The Bedouins were often ruthless raiders of established desert communities, in a never-ending conquest for plunder and material wealth. Equally, they practised generous hospitality, and valued the virtue of chastity in their women, who were their ambassadors of generosity and hospitality. They followed their code of honour religiously, governed by tribal chieftains, or Sheikhs, who were elected by tribal elders.

In the first few centuries C.E., many Bedouin were converted to Christianity and Judaism, and many Bedouin tribes fell to Roman slavery. By the turn of the seventh century, most Bedouins had been converted to Islam.

The incessant warring caused great conflict and discontent among the tribal leaders, and as such they decided to branch out in their travels as far as Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, and Persia, often amazed at the excessive wealth of the civilizations which they encountered throughout Arabia. However, when the Mongols took the city of Baghdad in 1258 C.E., the Bedouin people were subjected to accepting Ottoman presence and authority.

The nineteenth century proved pivotal in the history of the Bedouins, as the British pushed through on their way to India. Some Bedouin under British rule began to transition to a semi-nomadic lifestyle. By the 1930's, the oil fields had been established and farmed by Americans and British, which brought gratuitous wealth to the Arabian empire, bringing desert people into a modern world of lavish comforts and technology. In the 1950's and 1960's, large numbers of Bedouin throughout the Middle East started to leave the traditional, nomadic life to settle in the cities. The traditional nomadic Bedouin became an endangered species in terms of survival, as contemporary commerce rolled into Arabia.  


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