The Bedwi,(from the Majatran badawī (بدوي), pl. badū), are a predominantly desert-dwelling Majatran ethnic subgroup (nomadic or semi-nomadic). They inhabit the desert and sometimes coastal area's of the United Badaran Emirates.
Bedouin Male

a Bedouin male.

Traditional Bedouin culturesEdit

The Bedouins are divided into related tribes. These tribes are organized on several levels—a widely quoted Bedouin saying is "My brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers". This saying signifies a hierarchy of loyalties based on closeness of kinship that runs from the nuclear family through the lineage, the tribe, and even, in principle at least, to an entire ethnic or linguistic group (which is perceived to have a kinship basis). Disputes are settled, interests are pursued, and justice and order are maintained by means of this organizational framework, according to an ethic of self-help and collective responsibility. The individual family unit (known as a tent or bayt) typically consisted of three or four adults (a married couple plus siblings or parents) and any number of children.
Bedouin tent

Bedouin tent

When resources are plentiful, several tents will travel together as a goum. These groups are sometimes linked by patriarchal lineage, but were just as likely linked by marriage (new wives were especially likely to have male relatives join them), acquaintance or even no clearly defined relation but a simple shared membership in the tribe.

The next scale of interactions inside tribal groups is the ibn amm ("cousin") or descent group, commonly of three to five generations. These are often linked to "goums", but whereas a "goum" would generally consist of people all with the same herd type, "descent groups" are frequently split up over several economic activities (allowing a degree of risk management: should one group of members of a descent group suffer economically, the other members would be able to support them). Whilst the phrase "descent group" suggests purely a lineage-based arrangement, in reality these groups are fluid and adapt their genealogies to take in new members.

The largest scale of tribal interactions is of course the tribe as a whole, led by a Sheikh (Majatran: شيخ, literally, "elder"). The tribe often claims descent from one common ancestor—as mentioned above. This appears patrimonial but in reality new groups could have genealogies invented to tie them in to this ancestor. The tribal level is the level that mediated between the Bedouin and the outside governments and organizations.

Bedouins traditionally had strong honor codes, and traditional systems of justice dispensation in Bedouin society typically revolved around such codes. The bisha'a, or ordeal by fire, is a well-known Bedouin practice of lie detection. See also: Honor codes of the Bedouin, Bedouin systems of justice.
Bedouin Females

Bedouin females

Honor codes of the BedouinEdit

Sharaf and ird are Bedouin honor codes. Along with hospitality and courage/bravery, it is one of the Bedouin aspects of ethics that contain significant amounts of pre-Islamic customs. Bedouin systems of justice are based on these honor codes, although the codes are falling into disuse as more Bedouins accept sharia or national penal codes as the means for dispensing justice.


Ird is the Bedouin honor code for women. A woman is born with her ird intact, but sexual transgression could take her ird away. Ird is different from virginity, as it is emotional and conceptual. Once lost, ird cannot be regained. Sharaf is the general Bedouin honor code for men. It can be acquired, augmented, lost, and regained. Sharaf involves protection of the ird of the women of the family, protection of property, maintenance of the honor of the tribe and protection of the village (if the tribe has settled).
Bedouin men

Bedouin men, making and enjoying some music


Diyafa (hospitality) is a virtue closely linked to sharaf. If required, even an enemy must be given shelter and fed for some days. Poverty does not exempt one from one's duties in this regard. Generosity is a related virtue, and in many Bedouin societies gifts must be offered and cannot be declined. The destitute are looked after by the community, and tithing is mandatory in many Bedouin societies.


Hamasa (courage/bravery) is also closely linked to Sharaf. Bravery indicated the willingness to defend one's tribe for the purpose of assahiya (tribal solidarity and balance). It is closely related to muruwa (manliness). Bravery usually entails the ability to withstand pain, including (male) circumcision.

Bedouin systems of justiceEdit

Systems of justice among the Bedouin are varied among the tribes. A number of these systems date from pre-Islamic times, and hence do not follow Sharia (Islamic religious law). Many of these systems are falling into disuse as more and more Bedouins follow the Sharia or national penal codes for dispensing justice.

General principlesEdit

Bedouin justice is dispensed based on the honor codes of the Bedouin—sharaf for men and ird for women. Bedouin customs relating to preservation of honor, along with those relating to hospitality and bravery, date to pre-Islamic times. In many Bedouin courts, women often do not have a say as defendant or witness, and decisions are taken by village elders.

Members of a single tribe usually follow the same system of justice, and often claim descent from a single common ancestor. Closely related tribes may also follow similar systems of justice, and may even have common arbitrating courts. Jurists in the United Badaran Emirates have often referred to Bedouin customs as precedent.

In smaller Bedouin tribes, conflict resolution can be as informal as talks between families of the two parties. However, social protocols of conflict resolution are in place for the larger tribes.

Bedouins, as nomads, do not have the concept of incarceration. Petty crimes, and some major ones, are typically settled by fines, and grievous crimes by corporal or capital punishment. Bedouin tribes are typically held responsible for the action of their members; if the accused fails to pay a fine, the accused's tribe is expected to pay and becomes obligated to the tribe.

Trial by ordealEdit

Trial by ordeal is used by the Bedouin to decide on the gravest of crimes. Authorities to hold such trials and judge them are granted to few, and that too on a hereditary basis. The most well-known of the trials by ordeal is the bisha'a, a custom practiced among the Bedouin of the Emirates of Gharki, Kayuratan and Sumilkando. It is a protocol for lie detection, and is enacted only in the harshest of civil or criminal violations, such as in a case of a blood feud, usually in the absence of witnesses. It entails the accused to lick a hot metal spoon and subsequently rinse the mouth with water. If the tongue shows signs of a burn or a scar the accused is taken to be guilty of lying.

Common forms of judicial hierarchyEdit

  • Orfi: A one-level judicial system - Some Bedouin tribes in the Emirate of Sumilkando use arbitration by orfi courts. Orfi courts do not seek to find the truth or condemn the guilty, but act more as mediators between two parties. Orfi courts are headed by a muktar (judge). Orfi courts can authorize the bisha'a, but could be overruled by protocols governing blood feuds.
  • Ghadi: A two-level hierarchy - The Bedouin of the Emirate of Agundi appoint three judges (ghadi). One may appeal to a different judge if one is unhappy with the result of the conflict resolution. Alternatively, one may appeal to the sheikh (tribal leader), whose judgement cannot be overruled.
  • Armilat: A multi-level hierarchy - The Bedouin of the Emirate of Gharki have five levels of arbiters - judges with increasing levels of authority. The lowest-level arbiters are the kafeel (a person of power and stature or great physical strength in the tribe, chosen by each party). The claimant then approaches the kafeel of the other party, who acts as intermediary. Kafeels are paid for their work and not hereditary. All arbiters above the kafeel have hereditary powers and in increasing power of arbitration, are: kabir, adraybee, manshaad, and the highest authority, the jrabiee. The jrabiee are actually capable of performing the bisha'a, and are hence mubashas in this sense.

Blood feud protocolsEdit

Protocols regarding blood feuds often override court decisions, and may vary from tribe to tribe. Punishment for murder is usually harsher than punishment meted out to acts of disturbing the assahiya (tribal solidarity). The punishment for murder is usually capital punishment, but in some tribes a blood vengeance fee may be extracted instead. The general governing principle is that of Dum butlab dum ("blood begets blood"), which may be compared to the lex talionis. In many tribes, the first five levels of male cousins (Khamsa) are obligated to seek out and kill the murderer. If not found, another male member of the murderer's tribe would have to die in the retaliatory killing.

Bedouin CultureEdit

Bedouins are well known for practicing folk music, folk dance and folk poetry.

Bedouin music is the music of nomadic Bedouin tribes of the United Badaran Emirates. It is closely linked to its text. Songs are based on poetry and are sung either unaccompanied, or to the stringed instrument, the rebab. Traditional instruments are the rebab and various woodwinds.

Ardha, a traditional Bedouin dance

Ardha (Majatran: العرضة‎) is a type of folkloric dance performed by the Bedouin tribes of the United Badaran Emirates, especially the Emirates of Gharki and Sumilkando. It was traditionally performed before going to war, but nowadays is performed at celebrations or cultural events. The dance, which is performed by men carrying swords or canes, is accompanied by drums and spoken verse.

Ghinnawas (literally "little songs") are short, two line emotional lyric poems written by the Bedouins of Agundi, in a fashion similar to haikus, but similar in content to the blues. Ghinnawas typically talk of deep, personal feelings and are often an outlet for personal emotions which might not be otherwise expressible in Bedouin society. Ghinnawas may also be sung. Ghinnawa is a form of folk poetry, in the sense that anyone in the Bedouin society could author a ghinnawa. In a broader context, ghinnawas may be looked upon as non-standard discourse which are a means of coping with social reality.