|Bedouins, Wealth, and Change: A Study of Rural Development in the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman (UNU, 1980, 63 pages)|
|PART 1. General introduction|
Of the 13 geographical and settlement areas we have identified, 11 are of particular importance for the purposes of this report. The changes which have taken place under governmental direction in the bedouin/nomad way of life in these areas are briefly summarized in table 1, and a more detailed study follows in the text.
The division of southeastern Arabia into its geographical and cultural regions helps to identify the different locations available to mobile population groups for their economic activities and for the well-being of the people and their animals. The slight edaphic and climatic variations have been exploited and have led to seasonal or periodic movements by nomadic groups and their herds. The area within which these movements take place can be viewed horizontally or vertically, depending on the physical characteristics of the territory; camps can be sought out either during the winter or the summer months, or can be located independently of a particular rhythm of use. The following areas can be distinguished (see fig. 2): a. the horizontally ordered summer and winter grazing areas of the wadi, sand, and pediment (foothill) regions; b. the vertically ordered and seasonally used grazing areas or periodically used areas within the wadis in the northern (Oman) and southern (Dhofar) mountain regions; c. the periodically visited grazing areas of the central wadi region.
These settings, the regional mobile behaviour (here referring to a process of adaptation to economic, social, and natural conditions that takes place within a certain area and is determined by the need to maintain subsistence level) which binds the areas together, and the settlement and life styles of the population groups involved require a more thorough description. The traditional situation will receive attention first, modern changes will be mentioned subsequently.
The Horizontally Ordered Summer and Winter Grazing Areas of the Wadi, Sand, and Pediment Regions
The locations of the summer and winter pasture areas (SPA and WPA) in the United Arab Emirates and the northern part of the Sultanate of Oman are determined by the necessity for agriculture in addition to animal husbandry. Because the southeastern part of the Arabian peninsula is so barren, the cultivation of food crops is dependent on irrigation and is thus limited to a few oases. The location of the oasis determines the length of the harvest period (between May and October) for the most important product in southeastern Arabia, the date, as well as the spatial organization of the groves and the time during which the SPA is needed. The grazing of camel, goat, and sheep herds is concentrated on the area surrounding the oases and leads to exhaustion of the pastures. Therefore WPAs with fodder and water supplies as well as suitable climatic conditions for human habitation must be found. The locations of these supplementary winter pasture areas vary depending on the whereabouts of the oases (fig. 2).
The SPAs are located inland from the coast in the United Arab Emirates and are the "oasis chain" of the Liwa and the "oasis group" of al-sin and Buraimi, al-sin being the part of the "oasis group" which belongs to the UAE and Buraimi the part belonging to the Sultanate of Oman. The SPA of the Liwa is surrounded by huge sand dunes; the SPA of al-sin is located at the transition from wadi to sand region. The date-palm oases are located in the depressions between sand dunes and are supplied with water from wells (in the Liwa) or from wells and falaj systems (in al-sin and Buraimi).
In the Liwa shelter is provided by huts made of palm-branch mats, the huts being clustered in small, rectangularly arranged groups which are located at random throughout the area. Mud huts grouped together in villages provide the shelter in al-sin and Buraimi. Animals, primarily camels, are driven to pasture, especially in the north; only milk producing animals are kept at the settlements. Formerly men from both regions would travel to the coast in small caravans to work at pearl diving and fishing.
The associated WPAs lie toward the coast north of the oases. They extend in a wide arc from the border of Qatar in the northwest to the coast of the northern emirates, and include the peninsula of Abu Dhabi. Some pasture areas are located in depressions surrounded by sand dunes where nomad camp sites are set up at the few water holes found there. The camps consist of scattered windscreens and isolated huts built of palm-branch mats. Water and fodder in this area are limited, the herds must Coyer greater distances, and the nomads must move frequently. In times of need the WPAs are used during summer, but normally they are avoided during the summer months because of the unfavourable climatic conditions, in particular the high relative humidity.
Table 1. Geographical Regions and Changes in the Bedouin/Nomad Cultural Regions
|Geographical region||Cultural region||Recent changes in the bedouin/nomad cultural region||
|III.||Eastern pediment and wadi region||Bedouins and oasis farmers||Permanent settlement in individual isolated shelters||x||Land grants for agriculture and housing|
|IV.||Northern mountain region||Mountain nomads and mountain farmers||No significant changes||x|
|V.||Northern inner pediment and wadi region||Oasis farmers and shawawi||Permanent settlement in individual isolated huts, in some cases near the oases||x|
|VI.||Northern wadi region||Bedouins||Permanent settlement in individual isolated and scattered farms with gardens (a settlement project is planned)||x||Grants of land and credit for well construction|
|VII.||Sand region||Bedouins||Settlement of bedouins in self-contained settlement projects; abandonment of migration and decrease of camel breeding||x||Construction of settlements, financial support, formal job training|
|VIII.||Central wadi region||Scattered bedouins||None (settlement project is planned)||x|
|IX.||Southern wadi region||Bedouins||No significant changes||x||Construction of water wells and military post|
|X.||Southern inner pediment and wadi region||Bedouins||Permanent and semi-permanent settlements near government centres (sometimes with small gardens). Bedouins working as soldiers and a few as traders||x||x||Construction of water wells, military posts, schools. Doctor service weekly|
|Bedouins||See X. (Decrease of frankincense trade)||x||x||See X|
|XII.||Southern outer pediment and wadi region||Cattle-, camel-, and goat-herders (jebalis) and bedouins||Many new government centres. After the losses of the war slow increase of cattle- and camel-breeding. Renovation of shelters using modern construction materials. (introduction of modern tents; jebalis working as soldiers)||x||x||See X|
|XIII.||Southern coastal Region and bedouins||Oasis farmers, fishermen, jebalis, and jebalis around the big coastal settlements. Few low cost housing projects||Permanent and semi-permanent settlements for bedouins and and jebalis||x||x||Grants of land (60 x 60 feet) for bedouins|
Source: Scholz 1977a and b; completed by the author and his research associate J. Janzen.
Movement between SPA and WPA does not take place at one time but rather in stages. The rhythm of movement is determined by the supply of animal feed and water.
In the northern part of the Sultanate of Oman, the rugged terrain makes necessary a distinction between several SPA-WPA systems (fig. 2).
North of the Oman Mountains the SPA lies near the Coast, immediately adjoining the strip of coastal oases. Many bedouins own date groves here and others earn money by working in the fields or harvesting dates. Shelters were originally individual huts made of palm-branch mats. The most important animals were goats and sheep which were owned by the oasis inhabitants and usually taken to pasture by bedouins.
The WPA extends throughout the area of the wadi and pediment (foothill) region. Camps are located near the mountains where trees are more numerous. Shelters resemble those used in the summer sites.
South of the Oman Mountains (inner Oman), on the other hand, the SPAs lie near the mountains. This location is determined by the oases. The oases of Jabrin, Tanam, Adam, Sanaw, Aflaj, Bilad Bani Bu Hasan, and Bilad Bani Bu Ali lie some distance from the mountains in the middle of wadis. In the area around these oases the bedouins maintain loosely laid out camps with huts made of palm-branch mats. These not only provide shelter during the summer but also storage places for dates and dried fish during the rest of the year. Some bedouins, usually only the tribal chieftains, also own date groves in the oases.
The WPA extends south from the oases to include the wadi region and the edge of the sand region. Groups of trees and bushes within the wadis provide camp sites where there are water holes, wells, or dams (ghuyal) to prevent the run-off of water.
Different patterns of regional mobility are discernible in inner Oman. The tribes in the northern part of inner Oman, such as the Afari and Duru, move between the oases and the wadi region in a seasonal rhythm. The Duru tribe has rock salt deposits at Qara al-Milh and sulfurous salt deposits at Qara al-Kilbrit in the wadi region. The salt is taken either to be sold in the oases markets or to be traded for dried fish on the Arabian Sea coast. This latter is an additional valuable source of animal feed throughout southeastern Arabia.
Adjoining the area of the Duru in the southeast are the Jenabah and Wahibah tribal lands. These extend in almost parallel strips from the edge of the mountains in the north to the coast in the south. The members of both tribes move southward from the oases in the north to a part of the wadi region that is richer in trees and bushes. The women and children remain here with the camel herds while the men move to the coast to fish.
In the eastern part of inner Oman (Shargiyah), each of the nomad groups is associated with a settled tribe. The people work in the oases and engage in producing hay near the mountain region during the summer. In the winter season, they live in coastal settlements of small huts made of palm branch mats loosely laid together. Here they engage in fishing, a primitive form of fish processing, and the marketing of fish products. The goats and usually the camels as well are driven to pasture every day by herders.
In the southern part of the Sultanate of Oman (Dhofar), SPAs are located in the area of the inner pediment and wadi region because in the summer temperatures are lower here as a result of the monsoon conditions. Individual mobile groups camp here in the deeply cut, sometimes very narrow, wadis and use recesses in the rocks, umbrella shaped trees, and bushes or windscreens as shelters.
During the winter season, which is hotter in southern Oman, the bedouins, who raise only camels, move northward out of the narrow wadis to the edge of the sand region. The sparse supply of water and fodder forces them to move frequently and further afield during the winter pasture period. Windscreens are the most important type of shelter.
Vertically Oriented and Seasonally Used Pasture Areas, or Those Located within the Wadis and Periodically Used in the Northern (Oman) and Southern Mountain Regions (Oman and Dhofar Mountains)
Pronounced differences in the spatial disposition and movements of mobile groups are related to the varied relief of mountains and different climatic conditions.
North of the Oman Mountains (Musandam), the SPAs are located in the deeply cut, narrow wadis in the area of oases, or in the extensive pediment region on the west side of the mountains. Some groups transport their herds by boat to uninhabited islands off the coast to pasture. Here the men engage in fishing, rounding up their herds at the end of the fishing season for ferrying back to the mainland.
The WPAs, on the other hand, are located on terraces and other level areas on the steep sides of the wadis and mountains. Here individual groups build permanent housing from rock. The settlements are small and inhabited by a few closely related families. In some isolated instances, these mountain nomads plant crops on the smallest of the terraced fields where there is sufficient rainfall.
In the central and eastern part of the Oman Mountains, the mountain nomads remain within the long, broad wadis. Here they move camp from one tree and bush cluster to another with their herds of sheep and goats following the scarce supply of fodder and using rock ledges and caves as shelter. There is no marked seasonal movement. These mountain nomads (shawawi) visit neighbouring oases in the summer, either to drive the animals of the oasis dwellers (hadr) to pasture in exchange for goods such as dates and grain, or to participate in the date harvest for pay. They camp at some distance from the oases to prevent their herds overrunning the oasis gardens.
In the Dhofar Mountains, which have a monsoonal climate (i.e., a cooler summer with precipitation and a hot, dry winter) the nomadic tribes which engage in cattle raising, namely the mountain dwellers collectively designated jebalis, camp at the lower and middle elevations where they build dome-shaped huts as shelter from cool and rainy weather. The animals are kept in similar stalls sunk into the ground. During the monsoon season the animals are kept inside these stalls during the day to protect them from mosquitoes and are only driven to pasture at night. For security, only the grazing areas immediately surrounding the camp are used and consequently additional winter pastures are needed.
Winter pasture areas are found in the level tracts at high elevations in the mountains. Camps are built by clumps of trees because of the higher temperatures during the winter. Pens for the animals and sturdy, dome-shaped huts for humans are sometimes made. Animals are put out to pasture during the day and given additional hay grown on the steep wadi cliffs which are inaccessible to the cattle.
Crops, dependent on a modest rainfall, are grown in walled in fields as a complement to animal husbandry. In years when the supply of fodder is extremely short, dried fish from the coastal settlements of Dhofar is used as animal feed.
Periodically Used Pasture Areas of the Central Wadi Region
The broad transitional area between northern and southern Oman, the central wadi region, lacks any kind of oasis and has only a few wells which have little water. Information about the way of life here, and about the tribe of the Harassi which inhabits the area, is very limited although it is thought that the small nomadic groups pursue camel herding exclusively and engage in periodic movements.
Any differences between SPA and WPA are unknown.
In this rainless area of few wells, during the summer monsoonal air masses create a higher relative humidity and water is provided by dew. During the winter water is brought from distant wells by caravan. Some sub-groups of the Harassi appear in northern oases such as Adam during the summer, but little is known about these people.
The pattern of summer and winter pasture areas, and the different forms of regional mobility, indicate how the population of southeastern Arabia exploits the natural features of the land to secure its existence. It is significant that, traditionally, nomadic animal husbandry has been supplemented by other activities such as fishing, trading dried fish and salt, labour in the fields, and harvesting, and these have broadened the economic base and given more security to the inhabitants. Furthermore, with a few exceptions in the United Arab Emirates and in northern Oman, the nomad groups of southeastern Arabia do not use tents. These two factors distinguish these people from other bedouins in the Arab world.
These traditional life styles, nomadic habits, and economic activities of the southeastern Arabian bedouins are rapidly changing and little is preserved today. The wealth derived from oil has led to economic developments that have profoundly changed the settlement patterns and the way of life of the nomadic people who make up the majority of the inhabitants in the United Arab Emirates and Oman. In the United Arab Emirates, this process of change is already quite advanced and it is evident that the bedouins are participating in the new developments in a positive and beneficial manner. The following chapters discuss these developments in greater detail.