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Bedouin Culture

Essay by   •  May 7, 2012  •  Case Study  •  1,554 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,110 Views

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Many cultures in today's society have subsistence's that have a great impact on their cultural behavior. These behaviors have also been effective when it comes to studying and learning about these cultures. Here, I will discuss the Bedouin culture and how it has related to my learning experience throughout this class.

The term Bedouin is an Arabic derived generic name for a desert dweller. The term generally is applied to those Arab nomadic pastoralist groups found throughout the desert regions, mainly the Atlantic Coast of the Sahara Desert as well as the Eastern Coast of the Arabian Desert (Nowak, 2010).

The Bedouin culture has spread over the Arabian Peninsula's pastures in the early years. They are descendants of the Yemen, which were considered the first South Western Arabian settlers. They are also the descendants of Ishmael, who are also known as the Qayis, who were the second settlers of North-Central Arabia (Nowak, 2010).

The Bedouin was known for its lucrative import trade with southern Africa and included such items as livestock, herbs and spices, and even gold. The Bedouin's oases were often mobile markets of trade due to their lifestyle involving frequent herd migrating in search of greener pastures. The Bedouins were ruthless raiders of established desert communities and were constantly in never-ending conquests for wealth. They were hospitab le and valued the virtue of chastity in their women and followed their code of honor religiously (Abu-Bader, 2008).

The Bedouin were converted to Christianity and Judaism in the first few centuries and many of the tribes fell to Roman slavery. However, by the seventh century, most of the culture was Islamic.

By the 19th century, many Bedouin were under the control of the British and transitioned to a semi-nomadic lifestyle. By the 1930's, Americans and the British helped to bring gratuitous wealth to the Arabian empire by farming established oil fields, thus bringing the desert people into a world of comfort and modern technology.

However, by the 1960's, the Bedouins started to leave the traditional nomadic life in large numbers and begin to settle in cities and as contemporary commerce begin to make its way into Arabia, the nomadic Bedouin became an endangered species (Ben-Amos, 2008).

There are two different types of Bedouin cultures, traditional and contemporary. Traditionally, the Bedouins were divided into related tribes and were organized on several levels. The individual family, known as a tent, typically consisted of a married couple, plus siblings or parents with any number of children. This family unit migrated throughout the year following plant and water resources, while focusing on semi-nomadic pastoralism. The traditional Bedouin culture nomadic culture is noted for generous hospitality and the protection of women, as well as for their violent conflicts and tribal justice ( Abu-Bader, 2008).

Both men and women are equal in the Bedouin society, with the inequality being due to their different roles. The men are more involved in public activities. The status of the women is determined by their husband and she is responsible for holding his honor in her hands while staying in the private sphere. She is responsible for taking care of the tent, providing hospitality to any and all guests, raising the children, and all required work to maintain the household and the herds. Staying out of the public eye is considered a protection strategy due to Bedu men being labeled as violent in their public activities.

The traditional Bedouin people exhibit their hospitality at all times even while at war. For example, if a traveler touched their tent pole, then the Bedouin are obligated to welcome and invite the guest and his entourage for up to three days without any payment (Chatty, 2010).

The Bedouin's justice system varies and dates from pre-Islamic times. Many of these systems are becoming more and more obsolete as many of them are following national penal codes when it comes to serving justice.

Members of a single tribe usually follow the same system of justice and often claim descent from a single common ancestor. Closely related tribes may follow a similar justice of system and may even use a similar arbitrating court system. In smaller tribes, conflicts can easily be resolved by a simple conversation between the two warring parties. They do not have the concept of incarceration. Petty and other major crimes are typically settled with a fine of some sort, and for those gruesome crimes that may cause any kind of physical pain and bodily harm, capital punishment is considered. Bedouins are typically held responsible for fellow member actions and if a tribal member does not oblige to their punishment, then the tribe has the obligation to fulfill it (Chatty, 2010).

The clothing of the Traditional Bedouin woman called a thobe. This is a loose garment and requires little or no maintenance. The men usually wear a long white thobe with a sleeveless coat on top while the women wear blue or black thobes

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