Between Sand and Sea:
The Self-Making of Young Bedouin Men of Awlad 'Ali
Abstract: This paper is concerned with exploring different forms of modality, three in particular, among the youth of Awlad ‘Ali on the northwestern coast of Egypt, particularly in Al-Omaid. It is a result of 26 days of fieldwork in which I followed three distinct threads of existence by accompanying three different young men from Awlad ‘Ali: Said, Rahouma, and Hatem. This paper attempts to understand the options present and the decisions made as they emerge from being dependent on their families to formulating their own sense of self as adults socially, spacially, and financially. By tackling questions of power, authority, organization, masculinity, performance, and leisure, a brief understanding of what it is like to be young, male, and Bedouin on the northwestern coast of Egypt amidst a spur of globalization is drawn. References to previous scholarship on the modality of life in this region will be drawn comparatively in an attempt to emphasize the transformation that is currently taking place. Some names were changed to maintain anonymity given the sensitive information provided.
Growing up and being raised in a small village in the Nile Valley, I developed a particular form of longing for specific formations of communities: the segmentary community of which families (‘aila) are considered building blocks. Not because I find this structure specifically appealing, but because these forms of communities tend to be reflected spatially into a certain topographic model. I find this particular topography appealing, and I consider it foundational and influential to the formation of the modality of its inhabitants. The social and spatial interrelations within these kinds of topography, especially in the case of Awlad ‘Ali, are determined genealogically and not according to the land itself, and their identity is inseparable from this language of genealogy (Cole and Altorki 1998, 47). So to understand the options, paths, and decisions of the youth of Awlad ‘Ali, we ought first to understand how this genealogy unfolds spatially. For this, I decided to begin this ethnographic account with a sensorily description of this topography by exemplifying how it is like to navigate Al-Omaid sonically, olfactorily, visually, and spatially. At the same time, I try to divert from solely characterizing the Bedouin with “exotic social phenomena such as segmentation, parallel cousin marriage, or raiding as a system of exchange” (Cole 2003, 259), but rather situating these phenomena within a realistic perception in which they perform along with others.
“The overall outlines of Arab Bedouin society are well known to anthropology despite the lack of detailed studies.” (Muphy and Kasdan 1959, 18). This is particularly true when accounting for the rapid changes that have been facing the Bedouin community in the region. Questions of sedentarism and nomadism amidst radical changes in the ecology, in which economic systems regarding subsistence have acclimated, are becoming increasingly indispensable for understanding the contemporary formations of the Bedouin community. Similar to what Obermeyer has argued in his research that was conducted in Al-Qasr, here I also argue that Al-Omaid is sedentary in a way that is “not quite tribal and not quite peasant” (Obermeyer 1968, 18). This ambiguous state has echoed in the worlds of the young men of Awlad ‘Ali in Al-Omaid, introducing disturbance that inspired new forms of self-making among them. This shift was hindered, and this ambiguity was emphasized by the inconsistency, and sometimes the contradiction, of state and international development projects that were implemented in the region, coupled with environmental issues that faced the land (Cole and Altorki 2001, 320).
This shift has affected not only the economic aspect of sustenance but also the social formations of belonging and solidarity. The shift has incited the community to become territorial and not only kinship-based (Wolf 1957, 3), which further transformed the social ties from being communal to being based upon “private landholding, individual competitive participation in the national economy and profit-keeping, and new rights and obligations brought on by the activities of national and provincial level politics” (Obermeyer 1968, 321). As I will delineate further in the fieldwork section below, this has fueled and emphasized the individuality among the young men of Al-Omaid, who are now obliged to demonstrate compatibility and competitiveness within the rapidly changing socio-economic dynamics.
Al-Omaid is considered to be comprised of the lands that stretch on the left and right of a 14-kilometer road, which holds the same name, that connects two parallel highways along the north coast of Egypt. Upon entry, southern of the road, one is greeted by a blunt desert on the left and the wall of a military base on the right. It is not long until the abundance of green lands starts to unveil behind the desert. The wide road seems to be harmonically heaving from a distance, not following a straight line. Small workshops with colorful hand-painted signs indicating “mechanic” pass by. Behind them are fields of olive trees enclosed by a mesh of hay straws extending beyond the horizon. Narrow passages are splitting through the fields, revealing a few one-story houses. A man with a Shemagh (headwrap) indicates that one has entered the province of the Bedouins. A few kilometers in, a hill seen from afar starts to enlarge as one approaches. That is Khashm Al’Aish (Mouth of Bread): a huge hill that overlooks the entirety of Al-Omaid, and on a clear day, it might reveal as far as Al-Hammam on the east and Al-Alamain on the west. It is also where most casual campings, or Tal’aa (ascendings), of the Bedouins take place (Fig. 1, 2). Such Tal’aa’s are considered common practice among the young men of Al-Omaid, serving as an escape from the radiating heat of concrete walls of houses, especially in summer, to more open space. A few acres after Khashm Al A’ish, the agrarian fields start to diminish, and more pastel houses start to surface, yet they are not in close proximity to each other. Each house is surrounded by an empty piece of land where one or two horses can be seen wandering, eating grass.
The empty plots of land are irregular, yet they are spatially more prominent thanThe empty plots of land are irregular, yet they are spatially more prominent than houses. A series of houses constitute a family (‘aila), as they are usually owned by a number of siblings through patrimony, where each male is named a piece of land for him to build a house. When moving closer to the coast, houses become of two or three stories, with the ground level reserved mostly for commercial purposes: minimarts, workshops, or stores. (Fig. 3). Similar to what Abu-Lughod first observed in 1978, in the region of Al-Omaid, which is on the eastern edge of the western desert, it is unlikely to notice many summer tents as sedentarization has been long practiced (2016, 2). What is also unlikely to be sighted is women strolling down the narrow passages, especially near the main road of Al-Omaid, the thing which I will elaborate on in the following paragraph. The stillness (Fig. 4, 5) of the silent space is only interrupted by hearing the wind whispering, the cries of men greeting each other from a distance, or vehicles splitting through the main road. This stillness intensifies as you divert east or west of the road, where one can start to hear roosters crowing and wings flapping.
From the description above, we get to have a brief understanding of the space of Al-Omaid and its topography. What is worth noting here is the unlikeliness of noticing women of Al-Omaid around this space. Abu-Lughod, in her article “A Community of Secrets: The Separate World of Bedouin Women,” followed this notion of sexual segregation between the worlds of men and women. She linked that to a “code of honor and modesty [that] discourages expressions of sexuality,” as this code is responsible for constructing a set of ideals that men and women equally try to uphold (Abu-Lughod 1985, 640). I can also suggest based on my fieldwork that in the case of Al-Omaid, especially after the construction of the 14-kilometer road that is used almost daily by non-Bedouins, this code of honor and modesty is further challenged by the flux of foreigners and non-bedouins across Al-Omaid making women more aware of their presence and more committed to upholding this code of honor. I should also admit that it was unattainableFrom the description above, we get to have a brief understanding of the space of Al-Omaid and its topography. What is worth noting here is the unlikeliness of noticing women of Al-Omaid around this space. Abu-Lughod, in her article “A Community of Secrets: The Separate World of Bedouin Women,” followed this notion of sexual segregation between the worlds of men and women. She linked that to a “code of honor and modesty [that] discourages expressions of sexuality,” as this code is responsible for constructing a set of ideals that men and women equally try to uphold (Abu-Lughod 1985, 640). I can also suggest based on my fieldwork that in the case of Al-Omaid, especially after the construction of the 14-kilometer road that is used almost daily by non-Bedouins, this code of honor and modesty is further challenged by the flux of foreigners and non-bedouins across Al-Omaid making women more aware of their presence and more committed to upholding this code of honor. I should also admit that it was unattainable for me to formulate a sufficient understanding of the presence of women in Al-Omaid during my 26 days of fieldwork. After all, I was a foreigner, not one of the “sons, nephews, [or] younger kinsmen” to be greeted warmly by women, nor was I one of the “fathers, paternal uncles, or fathers-in-law” for my presence to bring a “sudden hush to a roomful of garrulous women” (Abu-Lughod 1985, 641). Women were only mentioned to me by my interlocutors in either the context of marriage or secret situationships with non-bedouin women.
From the description above, we also come to terms with the categorization of Al-Omaid as gradually transforming into an agrarian community. Practically, there is no evidence of nomadism. Here, I am not presenting becoming an agrarian community as the natural opposite of nomadism: if nomadism ceases to exist, the community has to become agrarian. But this transformation toward becoming an agrarian community has been enabled since the 60s by numerous state-sponsored developmental projects in an attempt to control the Bedouin community of the western desert (Altorki and Cole 1998, 125). So it is not unlikely to find my main interlocutor, a young man from Al-Omaid, able to identify the species and the age of a tree just by looking at it. Now in Al-Omaid, almost every household owns at least one acre of land which they either plant on their own or rent to others to plant. This transformation leaves the Bedouin of Al-Omaid with a modality that is characterized by “a complex mix of elements that are...contradictory but that coexist in the culture and the society as lived by individuals” (Altorki and Cole 1998, 120). This mixture of elements is now becoming richer and more contradictory, especially when the Bedouins of Al-Omaid still, even if in less rigor than before, distinguish themselves from Egyptians or those from the Nile Valley (Abu-Lughod 1987, 42).
Positionality within the Field
When conducting fieldwork in a space unfamiliar to me, as Maybury-Lewis have suggested in his introduction (1967), I find it essential to delineate my positionality within Al-Omaid to contextualize my interpretations of the spheres I explored. To overlook the sensibility of the encounter is not only to render the power of numerous factors in shaping this experience obsolete, but also to conserve the illusion of objectivity that constrains ethnographic research. I was easily identified as a foreigner, not from Al-Omiad nor a bedouin. At first, I came across as Masry (Cairene), but I was soon referred to as Ebrahim Al-Fallahy (indicating that I come from the Nile Valley). I decided to embrace my identity as someone who comes from the Nile Valley for the particular reason of the similarities that exist between their world and where I grew up, as indicated by one of Altorki and Cole’s interlocutors, “The fallahin are like us; but those who come from Cairo are strange” (Altorki and Cole 1998, 121). Notions of honor as moral ideal and segmentary politics of personal and social life bridged the gap between our worlds. My approach was to achieve as much genuine mutuality as possible. This mutuality was tied to how much of my personal identity I was willing to share. Similar to my interlocutors, I am a son, I am under a certain kind of pressure in the sense that I am still trying to emerge from dependence on the family to the responsibilities of adulthood. Questions of identity and purpose were central to my approach as I was examining the formulation of options: what is economically feasible, what is socially appropriate, and what lies beyond the horizons of social and cultural permissibility.
Acts of service were mutual in most of my encounters. I made sure to communicate that participation in the research is voluntary; hence, I considered it an act of service. I tried to draw myself away from the fantasies that claim ethnographies are being done for the sake of the people. Rather, I confronted myself with the reality that I was doing this out of my own interest and for my own benefit. I made it clear that this was a personal project, and my capacity of providing any form of assistance or aid to my interlocutors was limited. This made the expectations of my interlocutors realistic and demarcated my capabilities which made room for them to ask for feasible services, and that in turn created opportunities for various excursions that enriched my ethnographic account. It also broke the dynamics of the scholar and the interlocutor, bringing us to the same level of vulnerability and mutuality.
Some aspects of my identity I chose to emphasize to signify this mutuality further. The first is being part of a whole: a member of a family, with all the complexities it entails, despite not presenting myself normally as such. This provided an entry point to many of the discussions about family and responsibilities and brought my attention to this aspect of my life as unexplored territory. The second is being limited, and I was honest about how limited I am; limited in my capacities and my means. I find the notion of being limited to be bringing people together more than the notion of being capable. This collective awareness of knowing the limitations of one’s own capabilities is a gateway to collective vulnerability from which true communication emerges. Ironically, I did not feel the need to emphasize my religiosity except verbally. I did not pray in public, and I was not invited to a group prayer while there.
Despite communicating that a good sum of the information they provide will be published, I was never asked by my interlocutors to change any of the names in this account. Yet, I have chosen to do so, and I have been too careful with what to include and what to omit.
Last summer, heading towards Egypt’s north coast through the road of Al-Omaid, I watched a pile of watermelons shaped like a small pyramid appearing on the horizon. I slowed down and was greeted by a fine young man who soon I knew to be called Said. He was an Arab from Awlad ‘Ali Tribe. I asked for a fresh and sweet watermelon as he handed me one and guaranteed it to be. I said if it were not, I would come back the following day. Holding half a watermelon under my arm, I showed up the next day laughingly complaining to Said. Strongly, he insisted on taking me to the field of watermelons to choose from. I hopped in his truck, and we headed towards the nearby field. On our way, Said and I conversed briefly with a bedouin mahragan playing in the background through the truck’s radio. He seemed very into the music as he continuously interrupted our chatting to sing along. We arrived at the field, and I picked a watermelon while suggesting that we should open it and eat it together.
From that day on, I kept passing by Said, and he was welcoming enough to introduce me to others and show me around. “I study people socially and culturally through studying individuals,” I replied when asked about what I do. “We do not know enough about you,” I said as I explained my field of study, “back in Cairo, we study people that live beyond the oceans, and you are here within arm’s reach.” Said calmly nodded while leading me through the land of Abdelrazek’s sons (Fig. 6). After a long pause, he said, “Right. I can let you meet some of the old people here to tell you all about our history.” I respectfully said that I was not interested in history at the moment; I am interested in individuals and their experiences.
Said is 28 years old. He is calm most of the time, but when he talks, he does loudly. He is fond of poetry that speaks of prestige (Haiba), memorizing much of it. Knowing Said from the previous summer took down many barriers and made this ethnography feasible within 26 days. When I called him asking to visit him again, he was particularly delighted. He invited me over for dinner, and I spent the evening with him. On my first evening in a Bedouin house, I was eating frozen chicken pane and french fries, along with rice and meat. Earlier that day, he showed me the land of Abdelrazek’s Sons, of which he is the youngest. Said has twenty-two brothers and nineteen sisters, and each one of the brothers was assigned a piece of land. Said hadSaid is 28 years old. He is calm most of the time, but when he talks, he does loudly. He is fond of poetry that speaks of prestige (Haiba), memorizing much of it. Knowing Said from the previous summer took down many barriers and made this ethnography feasible within 26 days. When I called him asking to visit him again, he was particularly delighted. He invited me over for dinner, and I spent the evening with him. On my first evening in a Bedouin house, I was eating frozen chicken pane and french fries, along with rice and meat. Earlier that day, he showed me the land of Abdelrazek’s Sons, of which he is the youngest. Said has twenty-two brothers and nineteen sisters, and each one of the brothers was assigned a piece of land. Said had just finished building his own house to prepare himself for marriage. He had not yet asked for any woman’s hand, but he was hoping that by having his own house, he can propose to whoever he wanted. His house was on the peripheries of the land of Abdelrazek’s sons, yet it was on the main road that led to the rest of the houses. It is a one-story building surrounded by an empty piece of land enclosed by a few trees. We sat in the guests’ room that always had its door open, except at late night. As he was preparing tea for us, Said mentioned several times his hopes to build a big house on a hill closer to the coast, despite having just built his own house. “My father left us much fortune; all praise is due to Allah,” he said while stirring the mixture inside the teapot, “it is just that we did not yet distribute our inheritance.”
On a windy afternoon, Said left me in charge of the water pump that he had set up on the water channel on the road as he went to bring cutlery from his house for our ascending to Khasm Al ‘Aish later. “When these drivers finish washing their trucks,” he instructed, “ask each to pay you 50 Egyptian Pounds”. As his pick-up truck was with one of his brothers, he asked to take my car, while rubbing his palms against each other. “I won’t crash it,” he added laughingly. Along with selling fruits, the water pump is one of the means by which Said provides for himself. “Earning daily bread,” he explained. The suspended inheritance leaves Said with few options for subsistence, especially when at an age that makes it expected of him to support himself and his family. “Back in the days, it was just us and the desert. We eat what is there to eat, and we sleep under a piece of cloth. The days have changed. We now need to keep up with what is happening in the world. It is a struggle, I swear to god.” he said, “I am young, and I am trying to get married as soon as possible.” Said showed great interest in landholding. This might be due to the frozen inheritance, but it also brings us back to what I mentioned earlier about the community becoming territorial where status is tied to landholding and individual competitive participation in profit-keeping.
One night, Said, a couple of friends, and I went to Marina (a state-built upper-middle-class gated vacation village on the north coast). We spent most of the night there, in a cafe of which Said knows the owner. As he was lighting up a cigarette, Said made a joke about how this land on which we stand -referring to Marina- was sold by their parents “cheap as dirt,” and all the money was spent on one Umrah trip (a visit to the holy city of Makkah). Leisure for Said is mostly about “barmm,” which translates literally to ‘rolling.’ Given his vast circle of friends and acquaintances, Said particularly enjoys wandering around with no specific plan enjoying the spontaneity of meeting up with people he knows, and that is what ‘barmm’ is. “One night at a friend’s wedding in Al-Almain, one at a cafe in marina, one on the road with a bunch of friends, and one on Khashm Al ‘Aish,” he said, “and so it goes.”
On a quiet evening in Said’s house, his older brother, Abdelaziz, joined us. As Said was preparing some coffee, Abdelaziz said after clicking his tongue, “tahrib (smuggled).” It took me a moment to realize that he immediately recognized my rolling tobacco, which I had regularly bought from Cairo. I chuckled and said, “I did not know.” “Tell me more about it” I added. He said most imported cigarettes come through channels of smuggling across the western desert. He then asked Said to take out his phone and show me clips of smugglers walking across the desert. Said pulled his phone while giggling and opened Tiktok then pointed the screen towards me. These clips were no different from those Hüsken described in his study of smuggling in the region: an endless line of young men stretching along the desert carrying bags made of cloth (2017, 911). The one thing that was different from what Hüsken has mentioned was how comfortably the topic of smuggling was brought up to me without me even inquiring. He suggested that “the issue of tahrib is never mentioned in front of strangers,” however, this was not what I encountered in my case (Hüsken 2017, 905). Said then asked me, “If someone told you to go work for three days and get paid 150,000 EGP (approx. $8000), wouldn’t you go?” I did not know how to reply. Here, I am not approaching smuggling as an illicit criminal practice. But instead, I try to view it, similar to Hüsken, as “a type of economic, political, and cultural action that is...embedded in a wider setting of practices” (Hüsken 2017, 897). Said never mention that he practiced or participated in smuggling.
One afternoon while sitting with Said in his house, he told me we were going to pass by a friend before we ascend to Khashm Al ‘Aish. “He is affable,” he said, “you will like him much.” We arrived at Rahouma’s house, a three-story structure with bare concrete walls. None of it was finished except for a small room next to the garage, where we sat. He lived there with his family and supposedly had a private apartment in the building. It was clear that we interrupted Rahouma’s sleep; that is how spontaneous Said is. A strong sunbeam was illuminating through the room’s only window. The room had two small mattresses, a gas cylinder, a teapot, and the Kanshja (Fig. 7). The kanshja, or keneshja, is similar to a bong, through which short intensive doses of hashish can be smoked. I was familiar with the name, as it was mentioned before by Said’s friends; however, Said never smoked it, “It is not my thing,” he said. Rahouma came back after getting dressed with a tray full of fresh milk, honey, olives, vegetables, cheese, and bread. He is 27 years old, and he thought that smoking the kanshja made him look older (Fig. 8). I disagreed and said he looks fine. Said told Rahouma about what I do, and I repeated what I said to Said before. “We don’t know enough about you, especially the youth,” I said, “and we study people from far away while you are right here.” Rahouma strongly agreed and demonstrated sheer willingness to participate and pride in representing his people. We headed towards Khashm Al ‘Aish, and on our way, we stopped by Rahouma’s minimart, a tiny one-room mart with all the essential goods one might need. “Whose idea was the supermarket?” I asked. “My father.” he replied, “But it is such a bore.” “What else would you have wanted to do?” I asked. “Trade in cars,” he said, “but my father never registered my car under my name because he knows I will keep trading in them.” We took off heading towards Khashm Al ‘Aish, and on the way, Rahouma added “It can be constraining, but I have peace of mind this way. It is not like I have to worry about the future. The house is right there, and I have my car, my own business, and my kanshja. Also, it is just a matter of days before I get married. What else would I need?”
Rahouma lives with his family in the same building. Still, the nature of the topography that I delineated earlier gives room for negotiating personal space and, consequently, negotiating the identity performed in those personal spaces. The presence of huge families of many members, especially when coupled with the openness of the space, enabled the youth to dissolve within these segmentations. The segmentary structure is intertwined with the politics of personal life as well as systems of power (Abu-Lughod 1989, 286). In Rahouma’s case, the stillness during the winter is unbearable, so he travels to Alexandria and sometimes to Cairo to bring back some of the excitement that fades with summer. “In the days when the city is dead, I travel anywhere. I just can’t stand it here. I see the same people every day, so I go for a change to watch other people.” He also receives a monthly stipend from his father, covering all his needs. “If he tightens the tap,” he said, referring to the money he receives from his father, “I tell him I will go work in smuggling. He then immediately pulls back and gives me all I want.”
The decline in the authority of elders has been increasing lately, not in the form of complete defiance of their orders and code of morals, but in an unspoken consensus among the young men that the experiences of the elders are no longer relevant. Especially when new forms of individual subsistence, or what is better known as maslaha, are emerging, one can now gain partial independence from the family (‘aila). It takes a form similar to what Halpern described in his book The Changing Village Community, where he described the gradual decline in elders’ authority in terms of community and family organization (1967, 123). Here, I am not suggesting that elders are no longer feared and respected. In fact, Rahouma still tried to avoid being seen by his father smoking the kanshja. But within the worlds of the young men of Al-Omaid, they are becoming more creative in finding ways and negotiating spaces in which they can gain independence from the authority of their elders: settling disputes among themselves and operating trade and transactions within their circles. These circles can extend beyond the borders as the opportunity of choice replaces the need to become an obedient individual in the structures of authority (Hüsken 2017, 903).
One morning, I woke up to a phone call from Rahouma telling me to come to his minimart and that there was someone who wanted to meet me. I wanted to ask who, but Rahouma hung up before I did. I went there, parked outside, and waited inside my car. Rahouma appeared and waved for me to come inside. I walked in and was greeted by a young man in ashemagh who soon I knew to be called Hatem. That was my first and only time to meet Hatem. “The study and these sorts of things you are doing,” he said, “tell me about them.” I replied with the same words I said to Rahouma and Said before him, which seemed to have communicated my intentions properly. After a deep inhale from the cigarette he was holding, he said, “zain (fine),” Rahouma elaborated that Hatem had heard of the documentation I was doing here and he wanted to make sure to be included. We sat for tea in the backyard of Rahouma’s minimart. Hatem and I conversed about where he comes from and what he did for a living. He worked in trade and contracting for 4 years between 2012 and 2016. He then got to know an Egyptian businessman who talked him into facilitating the processes of smuggling from the western side of the desert all the way to Cairo. “He came to me,” Hatem said, “I didn’t go to him.” It appears that this kinship association makes the young men of Al-Omaid attractive business and trade partners due to the reliability of their social and political structures (Hüsken 2017, 904). His duties entailed planning and monitoring the path of the smuggled goods through the western desert, and then supervising repacking them into smaller packages to be smuggled in batches. Smuggling is one of the practices that are considered a domain for individual achievement and gaining status through proving oneself and finding additional sources of cash (Hüsken 2017, 905). Hatem is from one of the most powerful families in the western desert, and that is why he spoke freely asserting that no harm can be done to him. “Everyone knows what is happening here,” he said, “it is part of the ecology.” As he handed me a cup of tea that Rahouma had refilled, “It is all over TikTok,” he said laughingly, “We are putting it out there and we post it for fun.” After 5 years of working with that Egyptian businessman, Hatem decided to stop. “I did not like working for a masry,” he said, “I can be whoever I want here with my people, but there I was a stranger.” He now has his own house and resides beside his family. Apparently, he carried his experience in the practice of smuggling into his business. He is back to working in contracting, especially since the proclaimed electric train passes through his family’s land. Hatem was interested in being observed. When he saw that I had a camera, he asked me to take a photograph of him (Fig. 9), and he was conscious of how he performed in front of it.
The region of the western desert of Egypt is exponentially witnessing a shift towards new forms of modality and socio-economic structures. It also appears that the most vulnerable to this transformation are the young men who still need to emerge into and adapt to it by finding new forms of subsistence, and gaining status and individuality. Becoming a sedentary society, the options and possibilities for the young men that nomadism once offered are now limited. Furthermore, the sedentarism introduced new challenges and raised the bar of attainable status, and demanded more individual competitiveness and achievements. Whether trading in fruits, setting up a water pump, opening a minimart, or practicing smuggling, the young men are faced with the urge to prove themselves under varying conditions. Through the accounts delineated above, we come to glimpse into the contemporary lives of the young bedouins of Awlad ‘Ali with all their complexities. All three of them have several commonalities as they also have differences, and if it says anything, it would be that the exoticization of the Bedouins is no longer valid. It is, to say the least, unfounded to confine them within the boundaries of traditional phenomena. Segmentation, parallel cousin marriage, and smuggling are all phenomena that characterize the Bedouin community. However, they are always part of a whole, and they perform within larger dynamics of social and economic structures. Many of the struggles faced by the young bedouins are relevant to the youth of other urban centers. There is a dire need for multi-sited ethnographies that situates the Bedouins within their contemporary sedentary reality and account for their wide array of modalities. Said, Rahouma, and Hatem demonstrate three distinct modalities in which a sense of loss is predominant; a sense of loss and pride, with longing for a blurred past and precarious future, similar to what Cole and Altorki have mentioned before (1998, 217). They negotiate and circumvent, and compromise and retreat. “Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past” (Marx, 1951, 225). This paper was an attempt to scratch the surface of the many layers of circumstances that go into the making of the contemporary Bedouin history.
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