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Who are Egypt’s Bedawiye Tribes?

April 17, 2022

Tucked between a stretch of mountains and the majesty of the Red Sea are a peoples often overlooked: the Beja. Egypt’s Beja are nomadic, independent tribes who rely on their clustered nature to survive; they make their own food, nourish their niche language, and possess an intrinsic inclination for simpler, disconnected lifestyles. Also known as the Bujah or Bedawiye, the Beja have immortalized their culture from the latitudes of Aswan southward to the Eritrean plateau, numbering approximately 1.9 million individuals. They are assumed to be direct descendants of societies that have inhabited the area for over four millennia. Little is known about the way in which the Beja conceptualized their world, but spatial and environmental factors have helped shape what is seen from the outside looking in. Hopping from location to location, the vast majority of Beja are considered nomads involved in dhow (traditional sailing vessels) trading and herding. Pastoralists at heart, they travel vast distances with their flocks, subsisting almost entirely on milk, butter, and meat derived from cattle. As a people, the Beja are inclined to speak a Afroasiatic Northern Cushitic language called Bedawiet, although many also speak…

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