Employment in a Bedouin Community: The Case of the Town of Dahab in South Sinai

By Aziz, Heba | Nomadic Peoples, December 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Employment in a Bedouin Community: The Case of the Town of Dahab in South Sinai


Aziz, Heba, Nomadic Peoples


Bedouin employment is a controversial concept, especially when discussed with state representatives or with urban sedentary people -- many of whom would disagree on the applicability of the term for Bedouin communities. State officials in various Middle East countries would argue that Bedouin are incapable of working -- an excuse for the alienation of Bedouin from the path of economic and social development in their own communities. When Bedouin are discussed, arguments like Bedouin are unreliable and cannot adhere to fixed working hours and refuse being managed by non-Bedouin may be brought up.

In this article I discuss the issues of employment in a Bedouin community rather than Bedouin employment per se. I think it is hard nowadays to discuss Bedouin employment without considering those who currently share the Bedouin's physical and social space. Bedouin have never been autonomous, but anthropologists have often described their patterns and modes of employment as if they possessed a degree of autonomy, isolation and particularity. The town of Dahab on the Gulf of Aqaba is a vivid example of the way demographic changes influence employment patterns amongst the Bedouin and those who choose to share their space and resources. I will illustrate how the physical and social landscape of the town where tourism is the main economic activity, shaped the patterns of employment amongst the newly shaped local community. I will then discuss how such patterns raised controversial issues in employment and led to the confinement of the Bedouin's economic activities.

Background

The Sinai Peninsula has always been an area of immense political and strategic importance. Israel's belief that occupying the Sinai and having it under control of a military force was essential for its safety and security caused three wars in the modern history of Egypt. First came the war of 1956, then the Six-Day War in 1967 when Israel gained possession of the Sinai and finally the 1973 war when Egypt regained the north-west coast between Suez and Abu Rodeis. As a result of President Sadat's visit to Jerusalem and the signing of the Camp David Treaty, Egypt gradually regained the rest of the Sinai Peninsula. On the 25th April 1982 the whole of Sinai was regained, with the exception of Taba, which was returned in March 1989.

Until 1956 Bedouin life in South Sinai was largely shaped by ecological and social factors. Contact between the Bedouin and the Egyptian State authority was limited. Contacts with urban centers were mainly initiated by Bedouin who traded with, or sought employment in, the cities. Each administration brought its own strategies and policies, which significantly affected the livelihoods of the few Bedouin in the region and of those military and state officials, urban and sedentary communities, tourists and others who interacted with them.

In this article I focus on the period following the regaining of the Sinai by Egypt and on the various social and spatial changes that took place at the time. The Egyptian authorities realised the need to consolidate and secure their presence in the Sinai by introducing an economic and social development plan. The development of tourism along the Gulf of Aqaba became a national interest as well as an economic goal. The Egyptian authorities confirmed their presence and control over Sinai by investing in tourism. This was perceived to have dual benefits. First, it happened at the right time, in the early nineties when the need to diversify Egyptian tourism was great. Second, the growth of tourism reaffirms the presence of the Egyptian authority via a sector that is perceived to possess significant international political weight. Tourism development served as an important tool to promote the presence of the Egyptian authority internationally and to inject in the Sinai a pattern of glamorous modern development.

The idea of diversifying the Egyptian Tourism project from one heavily based on cultural and heritage tourism to recreation and beach tourism became a necessity as of 1993.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Employment in a Bedouin Community: The Case of the Town of Dahab in South Sinai
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?