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Bedouin facts for kids

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"Bedouin Wedding Procession" in the Jerusalem section of the Pike at the 1904 World's Fair.jpg
Bedouin wedding procession in the Jerusalem section of the Pike at the 1904 World's Fair
Quick facts for kids
Total population
4,000,000–25,000,000
Regions with significant populations
 Syria 1,800,000
 Saudi Arabia 635,000 (1978)
 Jordan 380,000 (2007)
 Egypt 50,000 (2003)–380,000 (2007)
 Israel 250,000 (2012)
 Algeria 230,000
 Iraq 100,000
 Palestine 30,000
Languages
Arabic dialects (Bedawi • Hassāniyya • Bedouin Hejazi • Bedouin Najdi • Omani)
Religion
Predominantly Islam
Minority Christianity
Related ethnic groups
other Arabs
Bedouin
Bedouin man in United Arab Emirates

Bedouins are an Arab ethnocultural group. They are descended from nomads who lived in the Arabian, Syrian and Saharan Deserts.

They call themselves the people of the tent, because they travelled around, living in tents. Bedouin were camel raisers and drivers, sheep and goat nomads, cattle driving nomads, and merchants.

While many Bedouins have abandoned their nomadic and tribal traditions for a modern urban lifestyle, many retain traditional Bedouin culture such as retaining the traditional ʿašāʾir clan structure, traditional music, poetry, dances (such as saas), and many other cultural practices and concepts. Urbanized Bedouins often organise cultural festivals, usually held several times a year, in which they gather with other Bedouins to partake in and learn about various Bedouin traditions—from poetry recitation and traditional sword dances to playing traditional instruments and even classes teaching traditional tent knitting. Traditions like camel riding and camping in the deserts are still popular leisure activities for urban Bedouins who live in close proximity to deserts or other wilderness areas.

Traditions

Herding

Livestock and herding, principally of goats, sheep and dromedary camels comprised the traditional livelihoods of Bedouins. These were used for meat, dairy products, and wool. Most of the staple foods that made up the Bedouins' diet were dairy products.

Tent making
Weaving lengths of fabric for tent making using ground loom. Palestine, c. 1900

Camels, in particular, had numerous cultural and functional uses. Having been regarded as a "gift from God", they were the main food source and method of transportation for many Bedouins. In addition to their extraordinary milking potentials under harsh desert conditions, their meat was occasionally consumed by Bedouins. As a cultural tradition, camel races were organized during celebratory occasions, such as weddings or religious festivals.

Some Bedouin societies live in arid regions. In areas where rainfall is very unpredictable, a camp will be moved irregularly, depending on the availability of green pasture. Where winter rainfall is more predictable in regions further south, some Bedouin people plant grain along their migration routes. This proves a resource for the livestock throughout the winter. In regions such as western Africa, where there is more predictable rainfall, the Bedouin practice transhumance. They plant crops near permanent homes in the valleys where there is more rain and move their livestock to the highland pastures.

Oral poetry

Oral poetry was the most popular art form among Bedouins. Having a poet in one's tribe was highly regarded in society. In addition to serving as a form of art, poetry was used as a means of conveying information and social control.

Raiding or ghazw

The well-regulated traditional habit of Bedouin tribes of raiding other tribes, caravans, or settlements is known in Arabic as ghazw.

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