The word Bedouin comes from the Arabic word Badawiyin which means desert dweller. The Bedouin people of the United Arab Emirates have a rich history. The Bedouin culture is one of the founding pillars of the UAE society and plays an integral part in the Emirati national identity.
The Bedouin society is a desert-dwelling semi-nomadic Arab ethnic group, which is divided up into tribes. There is a strong honour system among the people who are extremely loyal, first to their immediate families, then to their extended families and finally to their country. Each tribe, is led by a Sheikh and all the members of the tribe usually have a common ancestor.
Before the oil discovering and the booming of oil industry, the UAE society primarily consisted of the Bedouins living in the desert moving as nomads to grazing areas for the camels and herds, in the oasis where water sources and irrigation allowed for farming of dates and vegetables, close to the sea where pearl diving and fishing were the main forms of sustenance.
During the past twenty years the UAE has been developing very fast and the difference between the present and the past is completely unthinkable.
Dubai was basically a complete desert and nowadays has become a super modern futuristic megalopolis with the world’s tallest skyscrapers and biggest trade centres, ten lanes motorways etc.
A few groups of Bedouin people still live in the traditional tents as nomadic shepherds but most live on the edge of the desert and have become farmers. They lead a hard life and have to fight with a difficult environment. The women do most of the work. Arabian camels, sheep, and goats are kept and used for food and making a living. Bedouin families have 6 to 8 children that are raised by the mother with some input from the father and help from the entire village.
During the past years, many Bedouins have settled in the urban areas and they rely on salaried work.
In order to preserve the Bedouin society like music, dance, food and literature such as poetry, husbandry, and traditions are recognised and respected by all the people in the country, many initiatives have been done to feature this ancient cultural heritage into modern UAE multicultural country.
There are Heritage Villages in Dubai and Abu Dhabi where the Bedouin society has been recreated including traditional homes, food, music, and dance. If you drive into Al Ain desert, Abu Dhabi or any part of UAE you will definitely get to meet Bedouin people, that are very well known for their sense of hospitality and generosity. You can feel this traditional hospitality wherever you go in the UAE and this is one of the most wonderful experiences you can have.