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The Traditional Travelers

Bedouins are an ancient people, with customs and traditions that run deep. Today, Bedouins are traversing an ever-changing, modern world.

About modern EgyptSome Bedouins modernized, using everyday technology like phones and TV. Others live their lives in a tradition that dates back thousands of years, and are little changed from days gone past.

Little in the desert escapes the eye of a traditional Bedouin. They know where and when to find water. Shrubs tell them when it last rained and how much. Signs left in the sand proclaim who has been there, when and the direction from which they came and departed, the size of their flocks, and perhaps even the ages of their camels.

Bedouins navigate by the stars, familiar landmarks, and stone markers left on a previous trek. They travel light, leaving caches hanging in trees. Other travelers, if in need, are welcome to the food and water but are not to touch the remaining articles.

Many traditional Bedouin live in tents of goat and camel hair panels that the women have woven on their narrow ground looms and stitched together. The tents are usually divided into two rooms, one for greeting guests and one specifically for women.

When the tribe moves, the Bedouin wife is in charge of dismantling the tent, packing it on the camels, and reassembling it at the new site. Today even traditional Bedouins build very simple houses, of stone or brick, where they return as a base camp.

Although Bedouins live apart from the sedentary Egyptians, their ancient desert lifestyle is vanishing. The Toyota pickup is steadily replacing the camel. Nevertheless, even modernized Bedouins will, at times, seek out the desert to escape the trappings of their modern world.