Bedouin Traditional Life

The Bedouins, are an ethnic group, descended from nomads who have historically inhabitted the Arabian and Syrian Deserts. They are traditionally divided into tribes, or clans.

The Bedouin form a part of, but are not synonymous with, the modern concept of the Arabs. Bedouins have been referred to by various names throughout history, including Qedarites in the Old Testament and "Araba'a" by the Assyrians (ar-ba-a-a being a nisba of the noun Arab, a name still used for Bedouins today).

While many Bedouins have abandoned their nomadic and tribal traditions for modern urban lifestyle, they retain traditional Bedouin culture with concepts of belonging to ʿašāʾir, traditional music, poetry, dances (like Saas), and many other cultural practices. 

The term 'Bedu'in the Arabic language refers to one who lives out in the open, in the desert. The Arabic word 'Badawiyin'is a generic name for a desert-dweller and the English word ‘Bedouin’ is the derived from this.
In ancient times, most people settled near rivers but the Bedouin people preferred to live in the open desert. Bedouins mainly live in the Arabian and Syrian deserts, the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt and the Sahara Desert of North Africa.
There are Bedouin communities in many countries, including Egypt, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iraq in the Middle East and Morocco, Sudan, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya in North Africa. Altogether, the Bedouin population numbers about 4 million.
The Bedouins are seen as Arab culture’s purest representatives and the Bedouins continue to be hailed by other Arabs as “ideal” Arabs, especially because of their rich oral poetic tradition, their herding lifestyle and their traditional code of honour.

Using their horse for cover, members of the Arab Legion stage a realistic “Bedouin attack” at Amman, the capital of Jordan. (Photo by J. Smith/Fox Photos/Getty Images). 25th November 1936

A Bedouin woman cooking flatbread outside her tent in Israel, circa 1950. (Photo by Chalil Raad/Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A Bedouin sitting on a stationary camel in the Trans-Jordanian desert. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images). Circa 1950

An elderly Arab Bedouin sits loading and smoking a pipe. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images). Circa 1950

A group of Bedouin Arab men, who are working on the laying of a 560 mile long pipeline from Kirkuk in north Iraq to Bania on the Syrian coast for the Iraq Petroleum Company, having their lunch surrounded by sections of the pipe. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images). 4th March 1952

Bedouins (Arab., Badawi, “dwellers in the desert”), nomadic Arabs in the Jordan Desert at camp. Virtually all Bedouins are Muslims. (Photo by MacDonald Hastings/Hulton Archive/Getty Images). 1955

RAF nursing attendant Corporal Cy Thomas treating a group of Bedouin children in the southern Arabian desert. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images). 19th September 1962

Bedouin and Yemeni troops at the police fort of Marbakh. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images). 28th June 1963

A veiled Bedouin woman carrying a large bundle of sticks and a lamb in the Sinai Peninsula. (Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images). August 1966

Bedouin Arab fishermen bring in their catch June 3, 1975 on Lake Bardawil near the Israeli settlement of Nahal Yam in the Sinai Desert which was later evacuated as part of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt in 1982. (Photo by Shalom Bar Tal/GPO via Getty Images)