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Bedouin, Settlers, and Holiday-Makers

Bedouin, Settlers, and Holiday-Makers: Egypt’s Changing Northwest Coast

Donald P. Cole
Soraya Altorki
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 266
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  • Book Info
    Bedouin, Settlers, and Holiday-Makers
    Book Description:

    The arid regions impose strict limits upon human existence and activity. And yet by respecting those limits, the flourishing and stable culture of these regions has for centuries been sustained. In the last thirty years, however, the forces imposed by the twentieth century—modernization, globalization, the politics and economics of nations—have become so great that major changes in the old ways have had to take place for the sake of survival. Egypt’s northwest coast, where meager coastal rains have supported a sparse but thriving population of Bedouin, has recently seen the arrival of settlers from the Nile Valley, accustomed to a very different way of life and production, and hordes of tourists whose “empty, silent structures" have effectively turned the most productive strip of the coastal range into an artificial desert. This study documents the great accommodations that have taken place to ensure the arid rangelands of the northwest coast continue to be viable for the demands of human existence imposed on them. “A main thesis of this study," the authors write, “is that change in the northwest coast of Egypt has strong parallels in other arid regions of the wider Arab world; and specific comparisons are made to change underway elsewhere—especially regarding the transformation of Arab nomadic pastoralist production to a new form of ranching, and the related changes of sedentarization and the monetization of most aspects of livelihood."

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-361-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface to the Electronic Edition
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Acknowledgment
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xxi-xxxvi)

    Change is everywhere in the desert regions of the Arab world. Most Arabs, of course, do not live in these parts of their countries but in cities and villages in the riverain environments of the Nile, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and other smaller rivers or in areas where annual rainfall is moderate but sufficient to support agriculture. Examples of the latter are the western regions of greater Syria, the southwestern highlands of the Arabian Peninsula, and the coastal areas of northwest Africa. Outside these areas of ancient settlement are desert regions that comprise about 90 percent of the vast Arab...

  8. Chapter 1 Deserts and Desert Development in Egypt
    (pp. 17-40)

    The northwest coast and the other parts of desert Egypt share their country with the Nile Valley. The ancient floodplain of the Nile between Aswan and the Mediterranean Sea comprises some thirty-five thousand square kilometers, or about three and a half percent of Egypt’s sovereign territory of just over a million square kilometers. Nile water, a rich alluvium, and a warm climate combine to make the Nile Valley one of the world’s best regions for agriculture. Indeed, both ancient and modern Egyptian farmers have sustained agricultural production in the Nile Valley since long before the unification of Upper and Lower...

  9. Chapter 2 The People of Matruh: Arab Bedouin and Sons of the Nile Valley
    (pp. 41-64)

    The northwest coast displays moderate sociocultural diversity, as people there divide themselves into two main categories: Arabs and Sons of the Nile Valley A few others with non-Egyptian backgrounds in Sudan, Libya and other North African countries, and Greece also contribute to the diversity. Moreover, each of the two main categories has multiple subdivisions based on tribe and descent status among the Arabs and on length of residence in Matruh and community background for the Sons of the Nile Valley. The people called Arabs by themselves and others can be designated as Bedouin, although “badu” —from which the English “Bedouin”...

  10. Chapter 3 The Bedouin and Outside Forces, to the 1940s
    (pp. 65-88)

    Modern scholarly tradition asserts that a new historical era began in Egypt with the 1798 French invasion and subsequent occupation of the country until 1801. Egypt, said to have been asleep for a long time, woke up. Then, Muhammad‘Ali arrived on the scene and defeated the past in the form of the Mamluks. A new age defined as modern began to be ushered in. This version of history, of course, distorts reality through oversimplification and the reification of one event and one ruler as the sole agents of change.

    The reader is reminded that the Awlad‘Ali also arrived on the...

  11. Chapter 4 Urban Growth, Sedentarization, and Local Government
    (pp. 89-110)

    The aftermath of the Second World War was exceedingly bleak for the people of Matruh. According to Bujra (1973: 144),

    [T]he Bedouin returned to their areas to find them full of mines, all buildings destroyed, and many wells blown up. They had no stock of barley to feed themselves, and most of them had lost considerable numbers of animals, stored food, and capital equipment (such as tents and carpets).

    Town dwellers found their homes and shops deteriorated, if not destroyed. People struggled and began to rebuild their lives without assistance from the outside world.

    The Bedouin scoured the countryside to...

  12. Chapter 5 Change on the Range: From Nomadic Pastoralism to Bedouin Ranching
    (pp. 111-136)

    An elderly‘aqila, long settled near the sea in Qasr, recalled the days of his youth back around 1930 and said,

    I was about fourteen years old, and I remember that we used to move about. Wherever you wanted to graze, you could graze. Wherever you wanted to plow, you could plow. The land was not for the individual but for theqaba’il[“tribes” ; “clans”]. We followed the rain. Our anchor was Qasr, but we moved wherever there was rain. If there was rain in [Sidi] Barrani, people from here went there. If the rain was here, people from Barrani...

  13. Chapter 6 Barley, Figs, and Olives: The Old and New Desert Agriculture
    (pp. 137-162)

    The development of new agriculture in the northwest coast has been predicated, in part, on the belief that the whole region flourished with agricultural production during the Greco-Roman-Byzantine millennium of rule in Egypt. We indicated in Chapter 1 that the collapse of ancient desert agriculture was triggered by factors other than the arrival of Bedouin with the Islamic conquest and during the next few centuries. However, in a history of land use in the northwest coast, botanist and desert ecology expert Mohammed Kassas draws on the writings of mainly European colonialists during the first part of the twentieth century and...

  14. Chapter 7 Tourism and Holiday-Making: Egypt and Marsa Matruh
    (pp. 163-190)

    Research about Egypt’s northwest coast cannot ignore the region’s tourism development. It has played a major role in the area’s transformation and also increasingly provides strong links between the region and the rest of Egypt. Indeed, the northwest coast is tourism and holiday-making for many Nile Valley Egyptians. The Bedouin, their livestock-raising, and their old and new agriculture are hardly noticed by most of those who journey to the area for its beaches. How many people spend summer holidays there is not known precisely, but Matruh governorate statistics indicate about six hundred thousand registered visitors in 1993. Egyptian newspaper accounts...

  15. Chapter 8 Desert Beachfront Development: The New Villages
    (pp. 191-202)

    The most dramatic change that has occurred in the governorate of Matruh since the early 1980s is the construction of tourist villages for summer holiday-making on the desert beaches of the Mediterranean Sea. About sixty such villages have mushroomed in the eastern part of the governorate, while another thirty have sprung up in areas adjacent to Marsa Matruh. This development is strongly tied to the interests of elites from Nile Valley Egypt to escape the lower-class “sha’abistyle” during their summer vacations. As Egypt’s masses have increasingly taken over the older summer resorts, the elites have moved from place to...

  16. Chapter 9 Land, Law, Leaders, and Identities
    (pp. 203-224)

    Several issues the local people of Matruh repeatedly raised strike us as laden with contradiction and ambiguity. Land tenure and new problems related to changes in land ownership were mentioned often, especially by Bedouin. Almost everyone spoke of Awlad‘Ali‘urfas a system of dispute settlement that is more effective than the Egyptian state system formally applied in the region; and some called attention to how‘urfis being adapted to deal with new issues and changed dimensions of old ones. Questions of leadership and the selection of people to serve on representative boards often came up in discussions and suggest the...

  17. Chapter 10 Conclusions
    (pp. 225-234)

    We presented conclusions in the previous chapter concerning important issues raised in this work: about land and how its owned and not owned; about customary law and its uses in ways that are not a part of custom; about traditional leaders and how their positions derive not so much from tradition as from modernity in the forms of the state, development programs, and cooperative societies; and about changes in identity and other social constructs, including class. These topics, individually and taken together, constitute essences of one of the main conclusions we draw from what we heard and saw in the...

  18. Glossary Of Arabic Terms
    (pp. 235-238)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-250)
  20. Index
    (pp. 251-254)