Old and spectacular photos of Bedouin nomads, 1898

These rare photographs from the late 19th century show a series of Bedouin in transition. As modern governments exerted their power into previously uncontrolled areas of the desert, many Bedouins chose or were forced to abandon a completely nomadic lifestyle and converted to a semi-nomadic or sedentary urban lifestyle.

The Bedouin people ("desert dwellers" in Arabic) are pastoralists who move into the desert during the rainy winter season and back to cultivated land during the dry summer months.

Bedouin tribes have traditionally been classified according to the animal species that form the basis of their livelihood. Camel nomads occupy vast areas and are organized into large tribes in the deserts of Sahara, Syria and Arabia.

Bedouin society is tribal and patriarchal, typically composed of extended families that are patriarchal, endogamous, and polygynous. The head of the family, as well as each large social unit making up the tribal structure, is called a sheikh; The sheikh is assisted by an informal tribal council of male elders.

In the second half of the 20th century, the Bedouins faced new pressure to abandon nomadism. Middle Eastern governments nationalized Bedouin rangelands, imposed new limits on Bedouin movements and grazing, and many also implemented settlement programs that forced Bedouin communities to adopt sedentary or semi-sedentary lifestyles.

Some other Bedouin groups settled voluntarily in response to changing political and economic conditions. Advanced technology also left its mark as many of the remaining nomadic groups exchanged their traditional methods of animal transportation for motor vehicles.

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