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close this bookBedouins, Wealth, and Change: A Study of Rural Development in the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman (UNU, 1980, 63 pages)
close this folderPART 1. General introduction
View the document(introductory text...)
View the document1. Changes in the bedouin/nomad regions of the islamic orient
View the document2. Physical characteristics of the bedouin area in southeastern Arabia-physical and cultural divisions
View the document3. A survey of the geographical setting and nomadic habits of the bedouin and nomad population groups in southeastern Arabia

1. Changes in the bedouin/nomad regions of the islamic orient

The changes in the nomad areas of the Islamic Orient can be described as a product of well-aimed direct or indirect, external and/or internal forces and can be explained as a conflict between heterogeneous cultures (Balandier 1967; Redfield 1953; Scholz 1974). Both the colonial powers and the national states that came into existence after the Second World War and pursued a modernization based on western models came into conflict with the nomads who acknowledged only a loyalty to the tribe.

The following processes can be observed here (cf. Leidlmair 1965; Kraus 1969; Wirth 1962; Stein 1967; Gautier 1921). a. The establishment and securing of new national borders always resulted in further limitation of nomad freedom of movement. b. The development of a supra-tribal administration reduced the functions of the tribal head and reduced tribal independence. c. The introduction of new methods of transport led to the disappearance of camel caravan traffic; because of this and the related decrease in the need for camels, an important source of nomad income was lost. d. Official measures adopted to increase the amount of arable land usually led to a reduction in the size of nomad grazing areas.

These processes resulted in restriction or even destruction of the subsistence basis of the tribes and thus to a change in traditional economic and social patterns. This was made possible by the low esteem in which nomadism as a way of life and as an economic pursuit was held by political decision-makers. Furthermore, development was usually initiated or influenced by forces which in their cultural, social, and economic principles followed western models or were derived from them.

The strength of these trends is largely the result of the participation of numerous tribal chieftains and leading tribal families. Many leaders were able, with the help of super tribal authorities, to acquire the tribal land that had previously been used collectively. The result was loss of tribal sovereignty, or attainment of high and well-paid administrative or military positions, or shares in certain perquisites such as the tax revenues of tribal members. These tribal leaders, who had previously held office by virtue of genealogically founded claims of inheritance or through election by the council of elders, were often named as the official, legitimate representatives of the tribe by supra-tribal authorities (new governments, colonial administration). Thus the internal and external tribal structures gradually collapsed; the tribes disintegrated into a multiplicity of individual groups, formed for a specific purpose and bound together at best by the consciousness that they formerly belonged together. This does not mean, however, that nomad animal husbandry completely disappeared. Rather a wealth of local adaptations developed in response to social pressures rather than to the environment (see, e.g., Ferdinand 1969a; Hutteroth 1959: Rathjens 1969; Scholz 1974a and 1974b; Stein 1967; Wirth 1969).

For the general tribal population, the result of this development was usually a loss of their traditional, generations-old claims to the use of the economic resources of the tribe and thus a rapid change from a large degree of economic independence to dependence. Thus, the majority of uneducated tribal members had to take up new and unfamiliar jobs. The result was not only spatial disintegration but also the dissolution of the social tribal structures and the loss of familiar economic and cultural patterns. The new society was usually oriented toward western standards and was unable to provide tribal members with any help toward social orientation. Thus settling down permanently-often without supporting economic and social measures-was usually seen as the only solution (because it was the simplest and cheapest). The result was inevitable economic and social decline of this group. In most countries in the Middle East, former nomads make up a large part of the marginal population both in the cities and in the countryside (see, e.g., Capot-Rey 1962; Monteil 1959; Despois 1935, 1969; Mahhouk 1956; Montagne 1947; Boucheman 1934; Wirth 1971; Barth 1959; Salzman 1971; Singer 1973; Schweizer 1970;Scholz 1971, 1974a;Giese 1973;Humphries 1974).

A different pattern of development occurs in the nomad areas of the Arab oil-producing countries in the Gulf region. The following factors are responsible. a. These countries were usually free from direct colonial and thus from European foreign domination, and were at most under a limited, indirect control. b. They had a class of leaders that stemmed from the bedouin tribal tradition and that still maintained direct contact with members following a nomadic way of life.
c. They practiced a style of government that, on the domestic level, originated in the values, social hierarchy, and social customs of the bedouin tribal tradition. d. They needed above all their own people, i.e., bedouins, for their modern economic, infrastructural, and administrative development. e. They entered upon a course of modern development at a time when sufficient financial means were available for building up the country and when scientific and technical knowledge was available. (For the above points see Cole 1974; Amin 1973; Carter 1974; Heard-Bey 1974; Scholz 1975, 1976.)

The results of development based on these preconditions in Arab oil-producing countries lead to the realization that participation in modern developments by bedouin groups is desirable, with government support. It follows, therefore, that there is a readiness on the part of the bedouin population to share in this modern development which results in active as well as passive participation.

The most important direct measures are represented by extensive settlement projects in Medinat Sayed, Medinat Mohammed, al-Ain, along the highway between al-sin and Abu Dhabi, and in Abu Dhabi itself. Also planned are farms which are to be turned over to bedouin families after an initial phase. Economic participation in this modern process of development is encouraged in several ways.

Extensive measures designed to further handicrafts (embroidery, weaving) have been taken. Financial support has been provided for the preservation of camel breeding and for the care and planting of date groves (e.g., in the Liwa, Abu Dhabi, and al-Ain). Extension of credit has been made to bedouins for the construction of residential and business high-rise buildings. Concessions have been granted for various types of transport operations, and new occupations such as administrator, driver, police and military have been created by the government.

The construction of schools, hospitals, vocational schools, and so on represents a further government measure designed to make it possible for bedouins to enter into new economic and cultural life styles in a modern society.

Although this development process is only a few years old and is far from being completed, all signs indicate that those negative side effects which came into existence in most countries of the Islamic Orient during the change-over from nomadism to a new way of life will not take place in the United Arab Emirates.

The well-considered policy of the government with its goal of equal participation of all tribes has laid the foundation for a successful process of development. This process removes the individual from his familiar tribal area and places him in a society with new norms and new demands and is not without pain, emotional resistance, and reservations (especially among the older generation). But these reservations must and can be overcome since the Emirates want to continue to make outstanding economic and political progress.

A short introduction to the physical characteristics of the traditional bedouin area in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula will be followed by a discussion of the measures and projects for developing bedouin land, economy, and society that have been adopted and carried out in the United Arab Emirates and in the Sultanate of Oman. The results will be summarized and evaluated as far as possible at this time.

The following four questions provide a basis for the separate discussions of the United Arab Emirates (Part I I) and the Sultanate of Oman (Part III). a. What changes have occurred in the bedouin area? b. What kinds of goals are being pursued by the different governments with regard to their bedouin population? c. What direct and indirect measures have been adopted and which projects have been carried out for developing this area ? d. What developmental trends can be noted, what successes have been achieved, and what results can be expected'

The case studies of the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman (for which the author of each part is individually responsible) will describe how differences between the government policies of the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman affect the development of their rural/nomad areas.