Bedouin

Arab culture considers the Bedouin people to be “ideal” Arabs due to the purity of their society and lifestyle. Bedouins speak dialects of Arabic and are related ethnically to “city” Arabs.

Their territory stretches from the vast deserts of North Africa to the rocky sands of the Middle East including areas of Oman. They often occupy areas that receive less than 5 centimetres of rain a year, sometimes relying on pastures nourished by morning dew rather than rain to provide water for their animals.

Most are Sunni Muslims and a minority are Shia Muslims. The Bedouin fall into two basic social classes. One class is known as the “true” Bedouin, and they live as nomadic shepherds. The other group has embraced farming and is known as the fellahin. The fellahin lead a more settled life on the edge of the desert.

In contrast, the “true” Bedouin have been known for raiding any caravans that cross their paths while journeying across barren deserts. They move into the desert during the rainy winter seasons and back to the desert’s edge during the hot, dry summers. They speak Badawi, or as it is more commonly called, Bedouin Arabic.

The Bedouin Arabs have a relatively harsh existence. The nomads have no permanent homes, but live in portable, black tents made from woven, goat hair.

The tents are divided by a decorative partition called a gata. Half of the tent is for the women, children, cooking utensils, and storage. The other half contains a fireplace and is used for entertaining. The women do most of the work, while the men socialize and make plans for the group.

The material culture of the Bedouin is limited. Their tents are their main possessions, and animals are very important for their nomadic lifestyle. Camels are their main means of transportation, while sheep and goats are bought and sold. To endure the extreme heat of the desert, the Bedouin wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing.

Dairy products are the main food source for the Bedouin. Milk from camels and goats is made into yogurt and butter. Most of their meals consist of a bowl of milk, yogurt, or rice. Round loaves of unleavened bread are served when available. Dates, which can be found in desert oases, are eaten for dessert.

Meat is only served on special occasions such as marriage feasts, ceremonial events, or when guests are present.

As Seen in…

 

Places to visit on our Oman Holidays

Our holiday in Oman was such a surprise. This was our first visit to the ‘middle east’ and I must admit I was a little nervous. I shouldn’t have been. Everything was wonderful and we were made to feel so welcome.

J Rees, UK

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Why visit the Bedouin?

To experience a glimpse of Bedouin life and a culture that sadly is rapidly disappearing, visit the windswept sand dunes of the Omani desert around The Wahiba, otherwise known as the Sharqiya Sands. The Bedouin live a traditional nomadic life, spending their days raising livestock, using their great understanding of the harsh surroundings to survive. Sit down and share coffee and dates, admire their colourful handicrafts and learn about their unique lifestyle and culture. And if you are after an adrenaline rush, you can even head out dune bashing and enjoy the thrill of whizzing around the dunes in a 4WD.

Experience the desert and stay overnight at a Bedouin camp whilst admiring the diversity of the Omani landscape. People sometimes forget that Oman is a desert state. In fact, more than 80% of the country’s territory is covered with sand.

For anyone who wants to explore the desert, Wahiba Sands would be an excellent choice. Desert camps are run by Bedouins and arrange for an authentic experience and opportunity to indulge in the unique harsh environment. 200 kilometres south-east of Muscat, right past the little village of Al Wasil, the streets end. Cars and roads make way for camels and dirt tracks.

In the blink of an eye you find yourself completely surrounded by sand and even though you have just left ‘civilisation‘, it seems like a lifetime ago. The journey into the desert is an adventure in itself as 4WD vehicles lose traction while attempting to steer through the sands. With temperatures hitting 40°C you will climb 60 meter high dunes, often at speed to avoid getting stuck in the sand.

Drivers will stop so their passengers can get out and take a walk amongst the enormous dunes. Be sure to cover your feet as the sand can be unbearably hot. When climbing a dune you will find taking three steps forward actually means taking two steps back, so much effort and determination is needed to reach the top.

After reaching the Bedouin camp settle in for a traditional dinner inside the community tent and gather around the bonfire and observe the sky, set ablaze by millions of glistening stars. The next morning take a camel ride. Explore the local environment sitting on the backs of these desert ships strolling through the morning heat.

Return to camp, freshen up and set-off to enjoy more adrenaline inducing dune bashing.

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