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Photos from the turn of the century show Bedouins, the “desert dwellers” of the Middle East

Alex .A

The Bedouin, a semi-nomadic group, are descended from nomads who have inhabited the Arabian and Syrian deserts since ancient times. The Bedouin (“desert dwellers” in Arabic) move from place to place, marking their territory from the vast deserts of North Africa to the rocky sands of the Middle East.

Due to the unmerciful, harsh conditions of the desert and the lack of fresh water, the Bedouins were forced to live constantly on the move.

These photos below capture the Bedouins at the turn of the century. At the beginning of the 20th Century, governments became interested in previously ungovernable tracts of the desert and forced the Bedouins out. Many of them abandoned their traditional nomadic existence.

Photos Credit

 

 

a-bedouin-man-poses-on-horseback

a-bedouin-man-poses-on-horseback

 

a-family-dries-cheeses-on-the-roof-of-their-tent

a-family-dries-cheeses-on-the-roof-of-their-tent

 

 

a-man-with-a-hunting-falcon

a-man-with-a-hunting-falcon

 

a-young-man-plays-an-instrument

a-young-man-plays-an-instrument

 

bedouin-woman-weaves-fabric-as-her-family-looks-on

bedouin-woman-weaves-fabric-as-her-family-looks-on

Taxation of caravans was the major source of income for the Bedouins. They would also collect tributes from the non-Bedouin settlement, and occasionally earned income by transporting people and goods across the dessert.

 

bedouin-couple

bedouin-couple

 

bedouin-man-with-a-camel

bedouin-man-with-a-camel

Historically, this semi-nomadic tribe made a living from livestock and the herding of goats and camels. Regarded as a “gift from God,” camels had various cultural and functional uses among the Bedouins. Mainly used as a method of transport and for their milking potential under arid desert conditions, Bedouins occasionally consumed their meat as well.

During celebratory occasions like weddings or religious festivals, Bedouins organized camel races.

bedouin-man-with-a-sword

bedouin-man-with-a-sword

 

bedouin-mother-and-a-baby

bedouin-mother-and-a-baby

 

bedouin-sweethearts

bedouin-sweethearts

The most popular art form among Bedouins was poetry. A poet in one’s tribe was highly regarded as the most gifted and respected member of the society. Poetry was also used as means of conveying information and social control.

 

bedouin

bedouin

 

bedouins-at-the-tomb-of-lazarus-near-jerusalem

bedouins-at-the-tomb-of-lazarus-near-jerusalem

 

bedouins-rest-near-the-pyramids-of-giza

bedouins-rest-near-the-pyramids-of-giza

 

man-playing-an-instrument

man-playing-an-instrument

 

men-perform-a-sword-dance-at-a-wedding

men-perform-a-sword-dance-at-a-wedding

 

men-play-a-leapfrog-like-game-during-wedding-celebrations

men-play-a-leapfrog-like-game-during-wedding-celebrations

 

men-with-trained-falcons-used-for-hunting

men-with-trained-falcons-used-for-hunting

 

mounted-warriors

mounted-warriors

 

photo-of-a-bedouin-boy

photo-of-a-bedouin-boy

 

portrait-of-bedouin-man

portrait-of-bedouin-man

 

 

two-women-work-at-a-millstone

two-women-work-at-a-millstone

 

women-carry-bundles-of-papyrus

women-carry-bundles-of-papyrus

Today, many Bedouins have completely abandoned the tribal traditions and integrated into the urban world. However, there is a range of Bedouins who stay true to their tradition and retain Bedouin culture with traditional music, dances, and poetry. Urbanized Bedouins organize cultural festivals, held several times a year, in which they employ old Bedouins traditions – from poetry recitations to swords dances, to playing traditional Bedouin musical instruments.