The Bedouin people are from around the Arabian Peninsula. They live in regions in North Africa, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. Bedouin speak Arabic. Most are either Sunni Muslim or Christian.
Bedouin culture and family are built around tribes. These tight-knit tribes are led by male family members.
Whole tribes are large. Each tribe has many units though. Each unit shares one common ancestor. These units were fairly small. They have just 3-4 adults and their children. These extended families traveled together for protection.
The tribes usually have a tribal council in place. These are often headed by the eldest male in each unit.
The Bedouin practice equal treatment of women. In fact, the tribes were known to protect their women at all costs. However, within family units, there is division of labor. Some work is done by women and other work is done by men. Women are in charge of all family affairs. Men tend to heard animals and trade.
The Bedouins are well-known for their herding of goats, camels, and sheep. In fact, they are grouped according to the type of animal they herd. They tended to them throughout the Sahara, Syrian, and Arabian deserts. To take care of their animals, the Bedouins would move around often. They would follow water and plant sources during the year.
However, Bedouin men were in the past also known for their violence. Part of their livelihood came from raiding villages in search for goods. In the past, they earned money by taxing trade across the Middle East.
In recent times, most Bedouin tribes have settled down.
In the 20th century, Middle Eastern governments moved into Bedouin lands. This led many tribes to settle down. They had to take on new standards of living. This makes it hard to estimate how many Bedouins there are today.
Sources & Resources
Books & Journal Articles
- Mohammad, T., Xue, Y., Evison, M., & Tyler-Smith, C. (2009). Genetic structure of nomadic Bedouin from Kuwait. Heredity, 103(5), 425-433.
- Nebel, A., Filon, D., Brinkmann, B., Majumder, P. P., Faerman, M., & Oppenheim, A. (2001). The Y chromosome pool of Jews as part of the genetic landscape of the Middle East. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 69(5), 1095-1112.
Author: Amanda C. – 14 Feb 2018