15 interesting facts about Bedouin women
Women in Arab countries have made a lot of progress regarding emancipation in recent years. Egyptian women (among all other women) may have made the greatest progress and moved the furthest, breaking the barriers between the old and the new and paving the way for various sectors of social life. However, the position of Bedouin women (for example, in Egypt but also in other countries) among tribes has remained more or less the same. In the lives of Bedouin women (as well as in the lives of nomadic desert tribes that wander from north to south and from east to west in the endless Arabian deserts), almost nothing has changed for centuries.
- Bedouin women are included in a special social world – the obligations of Bedouin women are enormous and unlimited. Their rights are minimal and almost non-existent. Such a position is based on the old understanding that a man gets respect (because he is a warrior who carries weapons and provides life). A woman is a necessary lever for sustaining life.
- The Bedouin woman, however, is the supporting force and the driving force behind the life of many Bedouin families – the Bedouin woman performs almost all tasks (preparation of food, organization of life in temporary stops, care of cattle and cultivation of some temporary modest fields, care of children, cleaning, tidying, and others). . Bedouin women also knit clothing for all family members, blankets for livestock, making water bladders and setting up and patching tents.
- A Bedouin woman takes care of maintaining life in temporary tent settlements, organizing long journeys through the desert, sand, hot sun and cold nights.
- Women do a lot of work in temporary fields. Men do some work in the field (plowing and sowing). That’s why men give 2 rewards to women (faithfulness and concern for protecting a woman’s honor).
- Bedouin women are often rewarded with gold and jewelry (with which men formally measure love and respect). A woman is a symbol of the family, so she also receives “charms” to protect her from misfortune.
- Jewelry worn by a Bedouin woman is only the formal property of that woman. A woman cannot give away or give away that jewelry because it is family property.
- A Bedouin woman has freedom of movement in her own tribe. Women do not have a veil over their faces and talk freely with other men (members of the tribe). The woman, however, should remain hidden and unknown outside this circle. A Bedouin woman is always accompanied by a man and always with her face covered (if she goes to the market, to the city, etc.). It is an unforgivable sin if a Bedouin woman looks at other men and men from other tribes. Sometimes a tourist wants to take a photo of a woman with water bottles on her head. The women then pelt these unknown tourists with stones, leave jars of water and go to get the men from the tribe. Then it is best to leave the scene.
- Bedouins are completely excluded from the right to inherit land and real estate. A girl should marry a man designated by the head of the family. A woman can only have the right to part of movable assets (jewelry, money or livestock). She has the right to inherit if her heir (male person) from the third generation comes forward.
- A Bedouin woman is the only one who can end the war and declare peace among the Bedouin tribes – a woman among the Bedouins is trusted and respected for her work and loyalty. The Bedouin community is full of the greatest contrasts in relation to women. In certain situations, a woman can have a prominent role and be an extremely influential person (even though she is considered an inferior being). A woman can stop a fight if a conflict breaks out among the tribes. It is necessary to stand between the two warring parties, calling on these people to stop the conflict and come to an agreement. The Bedouin then lay down their weapons and form a mixed truce commission (including women from both tribes). It is an irreparable disgrace if a Bedouin injures or kills a woman. The battle ends immediately. Disputes and quarrels are settled by peaceful decisions.
- The Bedouin will be married by some other person – wedding customs and procedures among the Bedouin are very characteristic and interesting. The basic customs among the tribes are the same although there are minor differences. The girl marries a boy appointed by the guardian of the family. His decision is unfounded. A widow or divorced woman is free to remarry. The decision on marriage is made by the father. If the father is absent, then the decision is made by the father’s brother (or a relative according to the father’s line). The mother has no rights and must not interfere.
- Polygamy is widespread – the head of the family has several wives and often does not know the exact number of children. Divorces are a common phenomenon, but divorces are regulated by the regulations of customary law. The decision is made by agreement between the father and the husband. The decision is made at a meeting with witnesses. The husband loses all the dowry (the ransom with which the girl was paid) if the witness confirms that the divorce was due to the husband’s fault. And vice versa. All disputes are adjudicated by a tribal judge elected by the members of the tribe.
- Adultery is an unforgivable sin among the Bedouins – here the tribal court gives very harsh punishments. Families often punish adulterers with death and before the court. This is how the inter-family blood feud continues to develop.
- in matters of marriage, there are elaborate and detailed customs that regulate a whole range of situations. Bedouin women do not have the right to demand and set conditions here. The girl’s guardian usually kills the young man who kidnaps the girl and then starts negotiations for ransom and marriage. If a young man kidnaps and dishonors a girl, then the guardian has the right to kill the young man (while the family members of that young man waive the right to revenge).
- The Bedouin woman remained in her own world within the circle of customs and regulations and under the full authority of her father, guardian or husband. And the breakthrough towards the release of these shackles (and the recognition of the rights of Bedouin women in the tribal community) has practically not even begun.
- These desert nomads should finally stabilize and settle certain areas more permanently. Then the Bedouin women could expect the rights to be respected and the rights of Bedouin women to be more effectively implemented.