Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Craft Guild Empowers Bedouin Women

Academic journal article Nomadic Peoples

Craft Guild Empowers Bedouin Women

Article excerpt

Starting in the 1980s, the Egyptian government began developing a large-scale tourist infrastructure on the coastal land of South Sinai, motivating the region's semi-nomadic people, the Bedouins, to increasingly turn to tourism for a very competitive income. In the last thirty months, tourism has dropped due to regional and worldwide violence. In an effort to sustain Bedouin crafts, provide income, and widen their marketing reach, a new Bedouin women's handicraft centre was founded last year. The manager, Sa'ad Ateya Selim, shared her experience and explained the centre's importance in an interview with Beth Jacob, a Cultural Survival intern.

Q: How did traditional Bedouins compare with those of today, and how have they had to adapt their headwork?

A: The Bedouins of Sinai were nomadic tribes based on an oral tradition--that's why there is a high rate of illiteracy among them. A main source of survival was flocks of sheep, goats, and camels. The Bedouin women have always worn highly decorated attire, as handicrafts were for personal use, not to sell. Lately, Bedouins have become sedentary, living in stone houses and rarely continuing their nomadic traditions of travelling with the herds. Now we mainly support ourselves by catering to tourists. The men either bring tourists to the desert or they have camps along the coast. Today, due to the political problems with the neighbouring country, many of these sources of income have dwindled. Therefore, the women began producing more bead works to sell to the tourists. Their bead works of today, mostly jewellery, can differ from their traditional product because they must design for the satisfaction of the client.

Q: What is the process behind running the craft centre?

A: The centrally located handicraft centre is where the women get their various beads, take them home, and craft at their own leisure. Once they have produced a few, they deliver them to the centre where, with the help of an appointee, they try to sell the work. My job is to keep track of the beads, the women's products, and the money earned. I also order the beads, price the products, take orders from clients, and get the women to produce them.

Q: Why do you enjoy managing the craftwork? …

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