New insights into Bedouin culture : a study of three Bedouin descent groups in Northeast Egypt
The ethnographic study on which this thesis is based was carried on from September 2002 through August 2003 among three Bedouin descent groups in northeast Egypt and Sinai. Through a cognitive anthropological approach, reflexivity and hermeneutics, and the adoption of participant observation techniques, this thesis is a study of the culture of the Egyptian Bedouin. It aims at providing a better understanding and appreciation of the Bedouin and their culture. It confronts many negative stereotypes and misrepresentations about Bedouin culture and lifestyle. Also concerned with a critical epistemology, this thesis could be considered a statement advocating the cultural rights of the Bedouin. In general, this thesis celebrates the Bedouin organisation and utilisation of their distinctive culture. In the process of the study, various Bedouin cultural models and schemas are examined and analysed. Examples and comparisons with other cultures are provided wherever possible. The Bedouin construct their own cultural models as a means of negotiating their natural and socio-political environments. They make continuous adjustments in response to the demands of the surrounding natural environment and the socio-political conditions. The Bedouin show a remarkable ability to change and adapt. They can invoke multiple identities and change their model of behaviour according to various contexts. Adaptability becomes very important in the economic sphere. Despite many similarities between different Bedouin groups, each Bedouin group has its own 'local' or 'specific' cultural models, which make Bedouin culture highly diversified. The study reveals that the stereotypical images of Bedouin as drug smugglers and being 'ignorant' about matters of religion are erroneous. The Aiaida Sufi Bedouin, in particular, demonstrate moral values and Islamic beliefs based on piety and love. Their teachings and wisdom propagate understanding, respect and tolerance of 'others'; such values are highly required for bringing different cultures together. The findings of this study are related to many issues currently discussed worldwide such as modernity and change, Islam and the West, human rights and gender relations. They aim at enriching the ongoing debates on these issues by presenting them from a Bedouin perspective.