IntroductionThe Bedu (or Bedouin for the plural name) are nomadicdesert herders, who roam around the desert with theirfamilies and herds of goats, camels, donkeys, andsometimes sheep. Their money is the guinea, worth$1.50. But the Bedu are changing, becoming more andmore modern by the day, leaving their nomadic lifestyles behind very slowly.
IntroductionWhile some people want to live by a river or theocean for water and an easier life, the Beduprefer theharsh, desert land. They are out in the desert, ridingabout. But still, the Bedu love and want water andgreen trees, they don’t like the dry, empty desertland. Their language is Arabic.As Lawrence of Arabia once said to Lord Feisal, “Thedesert is an ocean, in which no oar is dipped, and onthis ocean the Bedugo where they please, and strikewhere they please.”
LocationThe Bedu are nomads of the Middle East. They can befound all over the deserts of mainly SaudiArabia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, the United ArabEmirates, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, and Qatar.
PopulationThe exact number of Bedouins is unknown, but itranges from about 4 to 5 million, but that’s only about2 or 3 people every square mile (less than 1 personevery square kilometer). About 10% of the populationare still purely Bedu, while the other 90% are moremodern.
ClothingThe traditional and typical clothing for the Bedu menand women is the dishdasha, a long, dress-like article ofclothing worn by lots of Arabs that goes down to theankle. The men wear baggy pant-type clothes calledsirwal underneath the dishdasha, but the modern Bedumen wear sweatpants. Men also have a head cloth, butit varies from tribe to tribe. Also, both men and womenwear kuhl (kohl).
Clothing For WomenThe women wear the dishdasha as an under-dress, beneath a large, looser dress called athob, which is almost always colored black. But thefemale Bedualso wear the baggy pants, but they’retight around the ankles and embroidered, under theirdishdasha. Some tribes require women to wear acloth wrapped around the hair and face so only theeyes are visible.
FoodThe Bedu traditionally live off a diet mainly consisting ofcamel milk (cold or hot), which is usually boiled withbread or cooked with rice. The main luxury ismeat, usually goat meat. Some Bedu, while aroundcoastal areas, eat fish. The Bedu also sometimes huntfor their meat.
HuntingTraditionally, they capture falcons in the fall, trainthem, and then let them out in the spring to huntrabbits, foxes or migrating birds. Many Beduhave ahunting dog called a Saluki, a dog similar to thegreyhound, and these are treated with great love andaffection and even sleep with their masters in thetent. Ordinary, non-hunting dogs are filthy and notallowed to enter the tents.
JewelryThe Bedu women really like and love jewelry, and it’stheir custom to wear lots of it. Some Bedu womeneven wear their families’ wealth in jewelry, but thereis no problem with someone trying to stealit, because Bedu women can’t be touched bysomeone not in the family (according to the code ofhonor, or sharaf).Some older women have tattoos, which back thenwhen they got them, they were believed to enhancetheir beauty, but that has nearly died out and you willrarely ever see a younger women with the tattoos.
SuperstitionsSome Beduare superstitious, getting and buying lotsof special amulets and stones and lucky numbers(usually odd). Kids, mainly boys, are protected withspecial charms hung around their necks and ankles.They also have special earrings that have what theycall magic stones. Some older men still have holes intheir ears from these ear studs.
ReligionThe Bedu don’t all have the same religion, but theyare mainly Muslim, followers of Islam. At one timethere were Jewish and Christian tribes, but those alldied out and no longer exist. The Bedu don’t followthe rules very well. they can’t fully practice theirreligion because of their environment. They can’t dotheir ritual dry washings because they don’t have theright water. The hajj is a very important ritual and ispracticed daily, beginning at the ages of 7-8. Theprayers at noon and morning are most important.
Seasons The Bedu have about 5 seasons in total, but they don’talways have 5 seasons every year, sometimes just 4. TheBedu seasons are determined by how much rain there is.In a rainy year, spring could be 6 weeks in February andMarch, but in dry years, without lots of rain, there couldbe no spring at all, going straight from winter to summer.
Music and Dance The traditional Bedu instrument is the rebab, alsoknown as the robab or rubab, and is a woodwind typeof instrument, similar to a guitar.The Bedu don’t do many dances, though there is adance where the dancers get in a circle around onemain dancer and sing. If a girl is in the center, it’s alove song, if a boy is in the center, it’s about their god.
DeathWhen a Bedu dies, they are buried within 24 hours ofthe death. The body is prepared by washing the bodyclean. The body is also shaved, especially men. Thebody is finally shrouded in white cloth called kafan.The body is buried at the cemetery nearest death.Many ask if final words are said at the Haram. Thecemeteries are very simple, the graves aren’tlabeled, but the women aren’t allowed to enter. Theday after the burial, a 3 day mourning goes intoeffect.
MarriageMarriage isn’t always about love. Usually the brideand groom are first cousins. Women get marriedbetween the ages 16-22, but men get marriedbetween the ages 18-30. The wedding is just mainlynegotiations, once the bride is escorted to thegroom’s tent. It’s also really easy to divorce, too.Either the man states he wants one in front of awitness, or the women could just move back to herparents’ tent and refuse to go back.
Sports and RecreationBeing camel herders and all, they don’t really havetime for sports and recreation, or fun. But they do liketo have camel races, though. Most train their camelsto trot (picking up one foot at a time instead of goingleft-right with 2 feet at a time), as this makes them gofaster. Hunting is only done for sport by richBedu, although poor families need to.At night, around a campfire, they tell stories to oneanother, and sometimes the women sing songs to themen in an informal preformance, and this is calledsummejr.