Wednesday, April 12, 2006

No Idea! (Bedu)

When I uploaded all these sets of pics (by region so that I can find them again!), I called this entry No Idea!, and followed it with No Idea 2 & 3, because I can't read the cards in the photos from the Folklore Museum in Amman, they don't look like anything else I've seen, and for once Rehan Rajab can't help. But I pulled out Alan Keohane's excellent Bedouin, Nomads of the Desert (Kyle Cathie publ.) to double check that the rugs in the Beer Sheba entry were bedu - and found all these frocks!

These two are thob'obs, effectively double-length dresses, which no-one really wears anymore. (JR has a lovely 1931 photo (pl. 18) of a bedu woman in a thob'ob.) Perhaps they trapped air and helped keep you cool - Summer temperatures here can reach 50°C, with humidity so high that for months the walk from building to car is enough to soak your shirt to your back: even if the Negev and Sinai deserts have dry heat, like Saudi, it's still like in an oven!

In actual fact, nomadic life is governed by the seasons and the needs of livestock - primarily the availability of water. Modern national boundaries do not sit well with ancient travelling routes and pastures which spread from Syria in the north, via Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, across the length and breadth of KSA and the Arabian Peninsula to Kuwait, Oman and Yemen. Alan Keohane lived and travelled with bedu tribes in Oman and Saudi Arabia. We saw black goat hair tents on the southern plains of the Dead Sea, in Wadi Rum, halfway down mountainsides, and up towards Madaba in the land between the ancient Kings Road and the new Desert Highway.
I don't think I've even seen one in the UAE, but I'll save the issue of stateless people and/or 'bedouin' for another day.

Because, dear reader (too many 19th Century novels....) this is supposed to be about the frocks!

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