|A Bedouin family in Oman|
|8,000,000 - 10,000,000|
|Regions with significant populations|
| Saudi Arabia||4,000,000|
| Iraq||1,200,000|
| Jordan||910,000|
| Libya||530,000|
| Syria||500, 000|
| Sudan||400,000|
| Tunisia||400,000|
| Algeria||400,000|
| Morocco||400,000|
| Egypt- mainly in Sinai||380,000 (2007)|
| Kuwait||200,000|
| UAE||200,000|
| Israel||170,000 (1999)|
| Western Sahara||100,000|
| Mauritania||100,000|
| Bahrain||100,000|
| Qatar||100,000|
| Oman||100,000|
| Yemen||100,000|
Arabic dialects: Najdi • Hassānīya • Bedawi
majority adhere to Sunni Islam; small numbers adhere to Shia Islam and other religions
|Related ethnic groups|
The Bedouin ( /ˈbɛdʉ.ɪn/; from the Arabic badawī بَدَوِي, pl. badw بَدْو or badawiyyūn بَدَوِيُّون) are a part of a predominantly desert-dwelling Arabian ethnic group traditionally divided into tribes, or clans, known in Arabic as ʿašāʾir (عَشَائِر).
The term "Bedouin" derives from a plural form of the Arabic word badawī, as it is pronounced in colloquial dialects. The Arabic term badawī (بدوي) derives from the word bādiyah (بَادِية), which means semiarid desert (as opposed to ṣaḥarāʾ صَحَرَاء, which means desert). The term "Bedouin" therefore means, "those in bādiyah" or "those in the desert".
Starting in the late nineteenth century, many Bedouin began to transition to a semi-nomadic life. In the 1950s and 1960s, large numbers of Bedouin throughout Midwest Asia started to leave the traditional, nomadic life to settle in the cities of Midwest Asia, especially as hot ranges have shrunk and populations 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 abandon herding for standard jobs. Similarly, governmental policies in Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Tunisia, oil production Arab states of the Persian Gulf and Libya, 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. Governmental policies pressing the Bedouin have in some cases been executed in an attempt to provide service (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. In recent years, some Bedouin have adopted the pastime of raising and breeding white doves, while others have rejuvenated the traditional practice of falconry.
Beduin mothers carrying their children on their shoulders. Color photo taken in the late 19th century by the French photographer Bonfils
A widely quoted Bedouin saying is "I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers". This saying signifies a hierarchy of loyalties based on proximity of kinship that runs from the nuclear family through the lineage, the tribe, and, in principle at least, to an entire genetic 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 frame, 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 close male relatives join them), acquaintance, or no clearly defined relation but a simple shared membership in the tribe.
The next scale of interaction within groups was the ibn ʿamm (cousin, or literally "son of an uncle") or descent group, commonly of three to five generations. These were often linked to goums, but where a goum would generally consist of people all with the same herd type, descent groups were frequently split up over several economic activities, thus allowing a degree of 'risk management'; should one group of members of a descent group suffer economically, the other members of the descent group 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 the tribe as a whole, led by a Sheikh (Arabic: شيخ šayḫ, literally, "elder"). The tribe often claims descent from one common ancestor—as mentioned above. This appears patrilineal 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.
Bedouin 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 in Israel
Prior to the 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence, when the Negev became part of Israel, an estimated 65,000–90,000 Bedouins lived in the Negev. According to Encylopedia Judaica, 15,000 Bedouin remained in the Negev after 1948; other sources put the number as low as 11,000. An Israeli study in 1999 estimated a total Bedouin population in Israel of 170,000 for 1998, of which 110,000 in the Negev, 50,000 in the North and 10,000 in the "central region". This figure may include Bedouins residing in Palestinian territories who do not hold Israeli citizenship; those who do are classified by Israel as Arab citizen of Israel. After 1948, some Negev Bedouins were displaced. The Jahalin tribe, for instance, lived in the Tel Arad region of the Negev prior to the 1950s. In the early 1950s, the Jahalin were among the tribes which, according to Emmanuel Marks, "moved or were removed by the military government." They ended up in the so-called E1 area East of Jerusalem.
Successive Israeli administrations tried to urbanize Bedouins in the Negev. The first Bedouin town, Tel as-Sabi or Tel Sheva, was founded in 1967. The largest, Rahat, had a population of 28,000 by 1998; by that time, about half of all Negev Bedouins lived in urban areas. Approximately half of all Bedouins who are citizens of Israel live in so-called unrecognized villages.
Bedouin tribes and populations
There are 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. Below is a partial list of Bedouin tribes and their historic place of origin.
- Ababda, tribe in Eastern Egypt, north eastern Sudan and eastern Libya.
- Al-Abbadi One of tribes in Jordan.
- Al-Hjajj, one of the tribes in Jordan.
- al-Ajman, from eastern Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf States.
- Aniza, some Anizes are of Bedouin tribes that lives in northern Saudi Arabia, western Iraq, the Persian Gulf States, and the Syrian steppe.
- al-Awazem, mostly located in Kuwait, with a small section in north-eastern Saudi Arabia.
- 'Azazme, Negev and Egypt.
- Al-Balawi, powerful tribe live in northern of Saudi Arabia, southern Jordan and Palestine, Sinai in Egypt, western Iraq .
- Al-Baggara, in Syria, Iraq.
- Bani Hajer (Al-Hajri or Al-Hajeri) a large and powerful tribe in Saudi Arabia and the eastern Persian Gulf States.
- Beni Hamida, east of Dead Sea.
- Banu Hothail, one of the largest Adnanite Arab tribes.
- Bani Kinanah, a large tribe spanning Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and other countries.
- Quraysh, a large clan of Bani Kinanah tribe, prophet Muhammad, belongs to this tribe.
- Bani Khalid, a large tribe spanning Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan.
- Bani Okal, mainly in the area between Riyadh and Al Qaseem in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Gaza strip, and Iraq.
- Bani Rasheed Rashaida in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Jordan, Lebanon, Persian Gulf States and North Africa.
- Bani Truf in Ahwaz, which is located in southwest of Iran near Iraqi border.
- Bani Tameem in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, and Palestinian Territories.
- Bani lam mainly in najed, hail (Saudi Arabia) and Iraq, they descend from the famous ancient tribe of al ta'ai tribe famously known for their geneorsity.
- Bani Arak or Al-Araki or Al-Bo Araki, as known in Bahrain and Kuwait, is a rather small tribe that originates from Yemen but is now a minority in the country; currently the tribe is found in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Sudan and Egypt. The tribe is of Qahataniorigin and a sub-tribe of the ancient well-known tribe Juhayna.
- Banu Yam centered in Najran Province, Saudi Arabia.
- alatwy a tribe (also known as Beni Ateyah), live in north-western part of Saudi Arabia, Tabuk province and Western Iraq.
- Beni-Hasan, one of the largest tribes in Jordan.
- Beni Sakhr, one of the largest tribes in Jordan.
- Beni Sakhr in Sudan (Shokriya), Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Jordan.
- Al Buainain
- Al Bu Romaih
- al-Da'ajah Bedouin of Balqawi Amman in Jordan
- Dulaim, a very large and powerful tribe in Al Anbar western Iraq.
- al-Duwasir, south of Riyadh, and Kuwait.
- Ghamid, large tribe from Al-Bahah Province, Saudi Arabia, mostly settled, but with a small Bedouin section known as Badiyat Ghamid.
- Al-Hadid, large Bedouin tribe found in Iraq, Syria and Jordan. Now mostly are settled in cities such as Haditha in Iraq, Homs & Hama in Syria, and Amman Jordan.
- Al-Hajaya One of the largest tribes in Jordan (Al-Hesa).
- Harb, a large tribe, centered around Medina, but also extending northwards towards Tabuk and eastwards towards Al-Qassim.
- Hareeb 100 Miles South of Marib in Yemen.
- Hajaya in al-Qatarneh, and al-Hasa, Jordan.
- Al-Howaitat One of the largest tribes in Jordan (Al-Hesa).
- Al-Khassawneh One of the largest tribes in northern Irbid Jordan and well known for the long history dominating the north
- Ja'alin tribe found in north Sudan; they are Hashemite Arab tribe tracing their origin to ‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib.
- Al Jalahma.
- Juhayna (tribe), a large tribe; many of its warriors were recruited as mercenaries during World War I by Prince Faisal, surrounds the area of Mecca, and extends to Southern Medina and can also be found in Sudan as the biggest Qahtani tribe.
- Al-Magableh One of the largest tribes in Jordan and well known for the long history dominating the north.
- Khawalid in Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Syria.
- Al-Majali South Jordan Majalis have long dominated Karak Bedouin society, Strongest tribe in Karak, one of the largest political power in Jordan
- Makki tribes from banu Abdul Qays; they live in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar,Sudan and Oman.
- Manasir a large tribe found in the Persian Gulf region and eastern Sudan.
- al-Mawasi, a group living on the central Gaza Strip coast.
- al-Massaed, tribe found in Jordan.
- Al-Matheel, also spelled Mathil, a prominent Yemeni tribe based in the Damt region of Yemen, most have spread to the capital Sana'a.
- al-Murrah in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Upper-Egypt.
- Murad, a tribe living 150 miles south-east of the capital of Yemen.
- Mutair, estimated at about 1,200,000 members; live in the Nejd plateau; many families from the Mutair tribe live in the Persian Gulf States (especially Kuwait) and in Iraq.
- Muzziena tribe in Dahab and South Sinai (Egypt).
- Al Nuaim a large tribe in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan (Noaymat), Palestine, Sudan (Noaymayen), United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain.
- al-Rashaydah, a large tribe, originally centered around Medina, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait but also extending in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Eritrea, and Mali.
- Riyalat, it now resides in Sult, Jordan.
- Rwala, a large clan from the Aniza tribe, live in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, but extend through Jordan into Syria and Lebanon, in the 1970s, according to Lancaster, there were 250,000–500,000 Rwala.
- al-salaita, an ancient tribe in Jordan.
- Shahran Al-Ariydhah, very large tribe from Bisha city to Khamis Mushait and Abha cties Al-Arydhah 'wide' is a famous name for Shahran because it has a very large area, in Saudi Arabia.
- Shaigiya, a tribe found in the north of Sudan; they share the same origin with the ja'alin, a Rubattab tribe.
- Shammar, one of the biggest Arab tribes with 3 million members in Iraq, mainly in central and western Iraq and 1.5 million members in Saudi Arabia, and a presence in eastern Syria, Jordan and Lebanon as well.
- Subay', central Nejd, and Kuwait.
- Swellat,A Large Bedouin tribe, found in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
- Tarabin - one of the largest tribes in Egypt (Sinai) and Israel (Negev). They include many families like Al-Sanea'.
- Tuba-Zangariyye, Israel near Syria.
- Ubeidah, 150 miles west of the capital of Yemen.
- Ummur tribe of around 1,200 persons near Palmyra, Syria.
- Utaybah large tribe in western and central Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
- Yahia, a group from Morocco of about 96,000 people.
- Zaab, a small tribe, live with the Al-Ajman, in eastern Saudi Arabia.
- Zahranites or the zahrani community in al Baha, Saudi Arabia, is (Arabic: زهران) a Bedouin tribe. Along with other Arabian tribes, it is regarded to be of the very few original inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. The Zahrani are regarded to be one of the five largest tribes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with Ghamid, Shahran, and Qahtan.
- Al-Zinati Bedouin of Northern Jordan Valley.
- Al-Araqeeb, a small farming village in Israel (demolished)
- Brous, Devorah. "The 'Uprooting:' Education Void of Indigenous 'Location-Specific' Knowledge, Among Negev Bedouin Arabs in Southern Israel;" International Perspectives on Indigenous Education. (Ben Gurion University 2004)
- Chatty, D Mobile Pastoralists 1996. Broad introduction to the topic, specific focus on women's issues.
- Chatty, Dawn. From Camel to Truck. The Bedouin in the Modern World. New York: Vantage Press. 1986
- Cole, Donald P. "Where have the Bedouin gone?". Anthropological Quarterly. Washington: Spring 2003.Vol.76, Iss. 2; pg. 235
- Falah, Ghazi. “Israeli State Policy Towards Bedouin Sedentarization in the Negev,” Journal of Palestine Studies, 1989 Vol. XVIII, No. 2, pp. 71–91
- Falah, Ghazi. “The Spatial Pattern of Bedouin Sedentarization in Israel,” GeoJournal, 1985 Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 361–368.
- Gardner, Andrew. The Political Ecology of Bedouin Nomadism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In Political Ecology Across Spaces, Scales and Social Groups, Lisa Gezon and Susan Paulson, eds. Rutgers: Rutgers University Press.
- Gardner, Andrew. The New Calculus of Bedouin Pastoral Nomadism in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Human Organization 62 (3): 267-276.
- Gardner, Andrew and Timothy Finan. Navigating Modernization: Bedouin Pastoralism and Climate Information in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies 4 (Spring): 59-72.
- Gardner, Ann. "At Home in South Sinai." Nomadic Peoples 2000.Vol.4,Iss. 2; pp. 48–67. Detailed account of Bedouin women.
- Jarvis, Claude Scudamore. Yesterday and To-day in Sinai. Edinburgh/London: W. Blackwood & Sons; Three Deserts. London: John Murray, 1936; Desert and Delta. London: John Murray, 1938. Sympathetic accounts by a colonial administrator in Sinai.
- Lancaster, William. The Rwala Bedouin Today 1981 (Second Edition 1997). Detailed examination of social structures.
- S. Leder/B. Streck (ed.): Shifts and Drifts in Nomad-Sedentary Relations. Nomaden und Sesshafte 2 (Wiesbaden 2005)
- Lithwick, Harvey. "An Urban Development Strategy for the Negev’s Bedouin Community;" Center for Bedouin Studies and Development and Negev Center for Regional Development, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, August 2000
- Mohsen, Safia K. The quest for order among Awlad Ali of the Western Desert of Egypt.
- Thesiger, Wilfred (1959). Arabian Sands. ISBN 0-14-009514-4 (Penguin paperback). British adventurer lives as and with the Bedu of the Empty Quarter for 5 years