Bedouin (bĕdˈōĭn) [key] [Arab., = desert dwellers], primarily nomad Arab peoples of the Middle East, where they form about 10% of the population. They are of the same Semitic stock as their sedentary neighbors (the fellahin; see Arabs) and share with them a devout belief in Islam and a distrust of any but their own local traditions and way of life. Camel and sheep breeding provide their main livelihood. Land is divided into recognized tribal orbits within which are roving family groups. The tribe is a community of equals headed by a sheikh. Among the Bedouin, hospitality and simple, immediate justice are first rules of conduct. Although Bedouin have traditionally avoided agricultural work, settlement policies of the various Middle Eastern states in the 20th cent. have forced many of them into a sedentary life.
See E. Marx, Bedouin of the Negev (1967); E. Nevins and T. Wright, World Without Time (1969).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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