The Bedouin people of the Western Desert
The Bedouin were originally nomadic people that lived in the deserts raising camels. The Bedouin tribes of Egypt live mostly in the Western Desert and on the Sinai Peninsula. In the Western Desert they have settled in the oases, where they farm the land and raise livestock.
The traditional Bedouin tent was made from goat hair, which contracts when it rains to keep it dry inside. The tent stays cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Nowadays the type of tent has changed to make it easier to move however it still provides the traditional comfort.
Governmental pressure and economic problems have persuaded many Bedouin to build homes and settle in villages. However, they still travel often to the desert to remove themselves from modern life. They speak of the good old days when they used to spend all of their time in the desert and were always surrounded by the vast stillness.
It is still considered very important that the children are taught the traditional ways of life. They learn very early in life about how to survive in any desert. They are also taught how to use the sun and stars as directions. They understand how to use different type of desert herbs for medicine, drinks and food.
The Bedouin raise goats, sheep, donkey, horses and camels. Many of the foods the Bedouin traditionally eat are dry because they were not as heavy to carry in the desert. They make many different types of bread. One such type is fetir, which is a puffy bread made from flour, water and salt. It is often soaked in soup or hot milk.
The Bedouin have a very close relationship with their tribe and in all parts of their life the community is considered very important. They are famous for their hospitality and generosity.
The Bedouin often sing traditional songs around the fire, many of the songs are about the desert. They use their voices, hands drums and semsmeia (a small traditional Arabic guitar). The men still wear the traditional garb of a galabeya or long dress and a shaal on their head to protect it from the sun.
The Nubian People of Aswan
The Nubian people have lived in Upper Egypt since at least the time of the Pharaohs. Drawings have shown that they served as traders and military forces for the Pharaohs.
It is very important to the Nubians to preserve their culture. When the High Dam was built it flooded many of the Nubian villages and farm land. Many were forced to move further up the river and abandon their homes and villages. This caused many of the men to give up the farming lifestyle and move to cities to find work. The women stayed behind to try to maintain the village culture. These days some men are moving back as farming is increasing once more.
The Nubian economy was mainly based on agriculture. Specifically they specialized in farming dates and used all parts of the date tree in their daily life. They would eat the fruit of the dates, use the palm fronds to weave baskets, mats and the roofs of their homes and use the trunks to support the roof.
When the early villages were flooded by the water from the High Dam the government gave the Nubians a small sum of money to rebuild their homes further up the river. These homes were created very quickly but show a unique Nubian style. The entrance of a Nubian house is usually intricately decorated as it shows the heritage of the household. There is usually a guestroom with a separate guest entrance so that the family can maintain its privacy and hospitality can be offered to the guest.
The Nubians are known as skilled artisans. Jewelry making is considered one of the most important crafts of the Nubians. Jewellery is a way for a woman to have her own money and to show her status. Their jewellery is often very intricate and decorated with semi-precious stones.
Henna, the natural dye used to ornament the body, is believed to have originated in Egypt. The mummies of the pharaohs were found to have henna on their nails. The Nubian women are known all over Egypt for their exceptional Henna skills. In fact, when a woman gets married in Cairo they will usually get a Nubian woman to create the Henna designs.
Marriage is one of the most important events in the Nubian lifestyle and guests are invited from far distances. Traditional Nubian music is an important part of the ceremony. The music is inspired by the war sounds of the Pharaohs.
The Nubians have their own language. These days it is spoken with many different dialects. There is no fixed method of writing so they depend only on the sounds of the word which changes between dialects.
In recent times there has been a strong effort to preserve the Nubian culture and portray it to the world.