Bedouin: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Did you know ...

More interesting facts on Bedouin

Include this on your site/blog:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Total population
Regions with significant populations
Arab League Mainly in Arabian Peninsula and Arab League countries 170,000
Africa  ?
 Israel  ?

Arabic dialects:  NajdiHassānīyaBedawi


Sunni Islam, extremely few Bedouins who practice Shia Islam and other religions exist

Related ethnic groups


The Bedouin,(from the Arabic badawī (بدوي), pl. badū), are a predominantly desert-dwelling Arab ethnic group (previously nomadic, currently mostly settled) found throughout most of the desert belt extending from the Atlantic coast of the Sahara via the Western Desert, Sinai, and Negev to the Arabian Desert. Non-Arab groups, notably the Beja of the African coast of the Red Sea, are sometimes referred to as Bedouin as well.


Traditional Bedouin cultures

Traditional Bedouin in Southern Jordan
Bedouin woman in Jerusalem, ca. 1900

The Bedouins were divided into related tribes. These tribes were organized on several levels—a widely quoted Bedouin saying is "My brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers". This saying signifies a hierarchy of loyalties based on closeness of kinship that runs from the nuclear family through the lineage, the tribe, and even, in principle at least, to an entire ethnic or linguistic group (which is perceived to have a kinship basis). Disputes are settled, interests are pursued, and justice and order are maintained by means of this organizational framework, according to an ethic of self-help and collective responsibility (Andersen 14). The individual family unit (known as a tent or bayt) typically consisted of three or four adults (a married couple plus siblings or parents) and any number of children.

When resources were plentiful, several tents would travel together as a goum. These groups were sometimes linked by patriarchal lineage, but were just as likely linked by marriage (new wives were especially likely to have male relatives join them), acquaintance or even no clearly defined relation but a simple shared membership in the tribe.

The next scale of interactions inside tribal groups was the ibn amm ("cousin") or descent group, commonly of three to five generations. These were often linked to "goums", but whereas a "goum" would generally consist of people all with the same herd type, "descent groups" were frequently split up over several economic activities (allowing a degree of risk management: should one group of members of a descent group suffer economically, the other members would be able to support them). Whilst the phrase "descent group" suggests purely a lineage-based arrangement, in reality these groups were fluid and adapted their genealogies to take in new members.

The largest scale of tribal interactions is of course the tribe as a whole, led by a Sheikh (Arabic: شيخ, literally, "elder"). The tribe often claims descent from one common ancestor—as mentioned above. This appears patrimonial but in reality new groups could have genealogies invented to tie them in to this ancestor. The tribal level is the level that mediated between the Bedouin and the outside governments and organizations.

Bedouins traditionally had strong honor codes, and traditional systems of justice dispensation in Bedouin society typically revolved around such codes. The bisha'a, or ordeal by fire, is a well-known Bedouin practice of lie detection. See also: Honor codes of the Bedouin, Bedouin systems of justice

Bedouins are well known for practicing folk music, folk dance and folk poetry. See also: Bedouin music, Ardha, Ghinnawa.[1]

A Bedouin man in Sinai Peninsula

Changing ways of life

Bustan Archives: Goats grazing beneath disused garbage bins in the Bedouin township of Tel Sheva.

Starting in the late 19th century, many Bedouins under British rule began to transition to a semi-nomadic lifestyle. In the 1950's as well as the 1960's, large numbers of Bedouin throughout the Middle East started to leave the traditional, nomadic life to settle in the cities of the Middle East, especially as hot ranges have shrunk and population levels have grown. For example, in Syria 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 and Israel, oil production in Libya and the Persian Gulf, as well as a desire for improved standards of living, effectively led most Bedouin to become settled citizens of various nations, rather than stateless nomadic herders.

Government policies pressuring the Bedouin have in some cases been executed in an attempt to provide services (schools, health care, law enforcement and so on—see Chatty 1986 for examples), but in others have been based on the desire to seize land traditionally roved and controlled by the Bedouin.

The Bedouins in recent years have adopted the pastime of raising and breeding white doves. The reason for this has in some respect been attributed to the etymology of the word Bedouin: Be-douim archaic Pheonicio-Arabic for be, "white", and douim, "dove".[citation needed]

Partial list of Bedouin tribes and populations

Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, late president of the United Arab Emirates, during Bedouin life.
A Bedouin man lighting a camp fire in Wadi Rum, Jordan

There a number of Bedouin tribes, but the total population is often difficult to determine, especially as many Bedouin have ceased to lead nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyles (see above) and joined the general population. Below is a partial list of Bedouin tribes and their historic place of origin (the list does not include tribes of the Negev Bedouins in Israel):

And in Somalia, the Tribes of the

  • Isaaq and the
  • Darod are the main bedouins in Somalia.


  1. ^ More in-depth discussions on these topics can be found in Chatty (1996) and Lancaster (1997)
  2. ^ Info on Tuba from Flags of the World Website

Al Majali (south Jordan) Strong tribe played big role in history of Jordan

Further reading

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to bedouin article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:




bedouin (plural bedouins)

  1. A generic name for a desert-dweller; a term generally applied to Arab nomadic groups


Simple English

Bedouin people live in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East. They call themselves people of the tent.

This is because they are nomadic, which means they do not live in houses but travel around, living in tents. Bedouin were always camel raisers and drivers, sheep and goat nomads, cattle driving nomads, merchants. Today many Bedouin have given up the nomadic life and live and work in towns. But most do not forget that they are bedouin, and are proud of their heritage.

For example, the actor Nadim Sawalha is proud of not knowing his exact date of birth because he was born when his family were nomadic bedouin. He is equally proud of the pioneering work his family did in the hotel and tourism industry when they settled in town in Jordan.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address