The Desert of the Exodus: Journeys on Foot in the Wilderness of the Forty Years' Wanderings; Undertaken in Connection with the Ordnance Survey of Sinai and the Palestine Exploration Fund

By E. H. Palmer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
THE BEDAWíN OF SINAI.

Arab Life and Character. — Social Relations. — Means of Livelihood, Dress, Habits, Ilealth, etc. — Numbers and Origin. — Officers and Constitution; Marriage; Love; Children; Circumcision; Burial; Religion; Sacrifices; Festivals; Saints; Superstitions.

WHILE every other part of the world has witnessed innumerable changes, the desert alone seems to have escaped all innovation; and I believe that, not only in manners and mode of life, but even in dress and speech, the sons of Ishmael are now what they were in the days of the Patriarchs. The idea prevalent in Europe of the nomade character of the Arabs is erroneous. They are generally described as wandering incessantly with their tents from place to place, but in reality no people wander less than the Bedawín, or are more attached to their native homes. Arabic, indeed, is almost the only language besides our own in which the word "home," watan, can be expressed.

They have their winter and summer camping grounds, and, except to remove from one to the other as the season requires, they seldom change their residence. When traveling, they never make use of their tents, but sleep in the open air, merely wrapping their cloaks around them. Their encampments are not unlike those of the gypsies of this country, but the inhabitants are more wild and picturesque. The women, wrapped in their dark-blue mantles, grinding corn in primitive hand-mills, or weaving the materials of which the tents are composed, the children, dogs, and goats playing about with a happy community of ideas, the men lazily drinking coffee and smoking, form a scene at once picturesque and amusing.

Another misconception is that all Arabs are habitual robbers and murderers. It is true that, in the case of a

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