The Bedouin

The traditional inhabitants of the Sinai are Bedouin tribes who settled at different times in the last 1500 years. They are mostly from the Arab peninsula, with the Jabaleya a unique exception, being partly the descendants of people from the Balkan. Traditionally there are seven Bedouin tribes in South Sinai – the Tawara federation – but some other tribes from the north have moved in more recently. The Bedouin are pastoralist nomads, although most are now settled in or around towns. They still maintain a strong link to the desert and mountains, and many families move out to their campgrounds or gardens at certain times of the year. The Bedouin way of life is very simple and slow, with a fine balance of work and leisure time. It is a closed society where a complex system of family ties and traditions play the most important roles, but the people are genuinely welcoming and friendly. Having guests is an important part of the Bedouin culture, and visitors are treated as guests. It is a real experience to walk with a Bedouin guide and learn from their age-old survival skills and about their culture.

The Bedouin tribes in South Sinai

map of the Sinai Bedouin tribes“Although life has changed in many respects and most Bedouin now live in stone houses, the arrangement of living and communal spaces still reflects life in the traditional Bedouin tent. There is always a “sitting place” for the men and the guests, locally called maqad (the general Arabic term is majlis, which also means council). It is either in one room in the house often with a separate entrance, or in the garden under a shady roof, called arisha, traditionally made of canes or palm leaves, or simply under a shady tree. Even in stone houses often a fire place is put in the middle to make/keep warm tea and coffee, which is offered to guests. Apart from the maqad in the home, small settlements have their own maqad, where matters involving the community are discussed. A maqad is always open for guests and traditionally anybody can go and sit, or even stay up to three days, in others’ maqad.”

illustration-pages-bedouin

You find heaps more about Bedouin culture, as well as nature, history and other relevant subjects, in the guidebook. You can also visit the album ‘Bedouin and Camels‘ to see relevant photos.