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Beduines

 

 

 

Beduines - the
original inhabitants of Sinai

Boy from Suwalha tribe
Many Beduines have found a job in the touristical areas, but there are still a lot of beduines that seem to be more hidden from German, French, British or Italian "invadors"...


In all Sinai there are approx. 80.000 Beduines, from which only perhaps 30% have found a touristic related occupation. These beduines are mostly found between the Monastery of St. Catherine and Sharm El Sheikh.

Very eye-catching is the clothing of women. It is difficult for visitors to get to see them. Mostly they will see men, while Beduin women stay hidden. However, in some cases you might get across a woman wearing the famous veil (Burgaa) or the scarf, which is called "Tarha" in local language.

young woman from Muszeina tribe
Beduines come from places around Sinai such as Palestine, Arabia or Jordan. They settled in Sinai long ago, even though the environment is and was quite tough for living. There is hardly anything else than sand and mountains. Only a closer glance shows that there are some few oasises, plants and animals that allow the Beduines to live a nomadic life as they have always done.

 
  The Bedunine Tribes as of Today

 
  There are about 11-13 tribes to be distinguished in Sinai, depending on how to define clans and tribes. They are mostly living in tents so that they can leave the place again easily. Others are already living in smaller "wall-surrounded areas" where they usually stay.

The boundaries of the Beduines tribes are indistinct. However, they are understood by a long tradition, each area has been known and respected most of the time. In the past tribal raiding was evident, the history of these movements, alliances and eventual extinction in some cases is fascinating.

 

 

Aleiqat: This tribe was one of the first that has settled in Sinai (at the time of the Islamic conquest of Egypt). Their territory is now on the west coast of Sinai.

Aquila: This quite small tribe lives on the Mediterranean coast, right between the Sawarka and the Laheiwat.

Awarma (Suwalha): In South Sinai this is one clan of the overall tribe Suwalha.

Awlad Said (Suwalha): In South Sinai this is one clan of the overall tribe Suwalha.

Ayaida: North Sinai, next to the Channel of Suez.

Gebeleya: These are the people of the mountains. As probably only about 1,500 people they have a very small tribal territory around Mt. Sinai. They are not of Arab descent but are descendants of Macedonian people sent by Emperor Justinian to build, protect and serve the Monastery in the sixth century AD.

Haweitat: The Haweitat have their origin in the Hijaz mountains of northern Arabia. They occupy a triangular area southeast of Suez.


with kind support of STK Parks

Laheiwat: This tribe is split into 3 geographical areas: one in South Sinai (east), one at the Mediterranean Sea, and another one right next to the Channel of Suez.

Muszeina: this is the largest tribe in Sinai. These Beduines are living in the most southern part of Sinai and visitors of Sharm El Sheik will most probably see them on their visit to Sinai.

Qararsha (Suwalha): In South Sinai this is one clan of the overall tribe Suwalha.

Tarabin: The Tarabin, who have tribal territories, or dirha, in both North and South Sinai, are of Palestinian origin

Tiyaha: This tribe occupies an enormous territory in central Sinai; they origine - just as the Tarabin - from Palestine

Suwarka:
The Suwarka are the most numerous ones, They live in the north of Sinai, at the Mediterranean coast centred on Al Arish.

 
 

Unfortunately, with the arrival of tourism in South Sinai, the living conditions of the Beduines have changed dramatically. They have to fight for their land and are in deep discussions with local investors as well as with the Egyptian government.

In southern Sinai, the beautiful tropical coastline of the Gulf of Aqaba has recently experienced major development. The government has routed the area as the Egyptian Riviera in the interest of attracting international tourists and investors. The initial plan for the development of the Sinai was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Aid, as a result of the Camp David Peace Accords.
The indigenous people of South Sinai, the Bedouins, generally did not benefit from employment in the initial construction boom because the wages were too low to make it worth their while. Sudanese and Egyptian workers from other areas were brought in as laborers instead. The Bedouins increasingly moved into tourist industry positions such as cab drivers, tour guides for sight-seeing on camels or in jeeps, managing cafes or campgrounds. However, they soon had severe competition from foreign tour operators, Egyptians from the Nile Valley, and even with each other.

Since the mid-1980s, the Bedouins who held desirable coastal property have lost control of much of their land as it was sold by the Egyptian government to hotel operators. In the summer of 1999, the latest dispossession of land took place when the army bulldozed Bedouin-run tourist campgrounds north of Nuweiba as part of the final phase of hotel development in the sector, overseen by the Tourist Development Agency (TDA). The director of the Tourist Development Agency dismissed Bedouin rights to most of the land, saying that they had not lived on the coast before 1982. Bedouins had been living on the coast, but their traditional semi-nomadic culture has left them vulnerable to such claims. Most of the Sinai Bedouins have been in Sinai since the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries.


typical Beduine tent

Camel rider from the Muszeina tribe

 

 


 

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