Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Ababda

Am Ali ( the Poet)  Photo By/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo By/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo By/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Ayman - Photo By/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Beja tribe - El Qusair Fort collection
The Ababda are the northernmost Beja tribe, and live in central/southern Egypt. This area is bounded, as with other Beja tribes, between the Red Sea and the Nile River. At the north end a line between Qena (in the Nile valley) and Hurghada (on the Red Sea coast) can be considered the limit of the Ababda, and all Beja. In the south of Egypt, the Ababda generally live north of a line between Aswan on the Nile and Shalatayn on the Red Sea. 


Perhaps because of their location, the Ababda are the most arabized of the Beja tribes. Most are native Arabic speakers. Many Ababda (especially those from further north) prefer to think of themselves as Arab Bedouin, and not Beja. They are often only able to speak Arabic. However, they still maintain many distinctive Beja characteristics in their culture, and southern Ababda do admit to being Beja and are often bilingual in Arabic (first language) and Badawiyyet (second language).

 

Traditionally, Ababda live as desert nomads herding camels and goats in the northern reaches of the Eastern Desert. Like most Beja territory, the land is rugged, with many small hills, wadis, and semi desert countryside. Nomads may also harvest wild plants with medicinal value for sale in market towns. By the 1920s, most Ababda were settled, only venturing into the desert when necessary.

Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Osman and his Camel - Photo By/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Osman and his Camels - Photo By/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Historically, the Ababda provided transportation services across the desert. In one direction, they carried wheat from the Nile, east to the Red Sea port at Quesir, for shipping to Arabia.  This was before the Suez Canal was built. They also carried goods across the Nubian Desert, from Korosoko to Abu Hamed. This service was displaced when the British forces built the railway to invade Sudan. We note that hundreds of Ababda men worked the mines in southern Egypt.


During the British reconquest of Sudan in 1897-98, Ababda "arabs' fought against the Mahdist forces who were men from many tribes in Sudan. One story describes how the Egyptian/British side used their allies, the Ababda. Their ingenious reconnaissance efforts discovered the "dervish" strength at Abu Hamed before the battle on August 7, 1897.
The Ababda "did not ride direct on Abu Hamed, but on a small village about seven miles before it. As they approached from the desert they opened out into a long line, and riding rapidly forward, they drove in front of them every man they came across, and gradually closing in they surrounded the place and enclosed in it all its inhabitants so that no one could get away to give the Dervishes warning. They then got hold of the village sheikh, and, having threatened him with every threat imaginable, they got the most complete and accurate information of the Dervish strength and positions. They then watered their camels, and in order to avoid pursuit they took all the inhabitants, man, woman, and child out into the desert with them so that they could not send news to the Dervishes. About six miles out they released them all."  [Dervish pg. 187, by Philip Warner]

El Qusair Fort Photo's Collection
Am Ali - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
the Dove Dance - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
the Dove Dance - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
The Dove Dance - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Ayman - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Ayman and Ali ( from left to right ) - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
In 1902, the British authorities modified the existing border between Egypt and Sudan. Both lands were both under the control of Britain at the time. The border had been assigned at 22° north latitude. To make the region easier to administrate, three adjustments were made. Haifa town on the Nile River was located within Sudan, though north or the border. The Halaib Triangle was created to allow administration for the Bisharin tribe by Sudanese officials, since most Bisharin territory was in Sudan already. A small region Bir Tawil "tall well" south of the 22° line was given to Egypt.
Egypt became independent in 1922, and Sudan in 1956. This awkward border was inconsequential until 1992, when a Canadian oil company asked Sudan for permission to explore for oil in the Halaib Region. Egypt has since regained control of the land. In 2010, an unsuccessful attempt was made by Ahmed Musa,  the Beja assistant to President Bashir of Sudan, to gain access to Halaib region. He wanted to encourage the local Bisharin inhabitants to vote in the April 2010 elections.

Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Ayman two years before the last picture were captured  - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Gabana Coffee - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2009
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2009
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Alone on the road - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Gomaa - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Taiseer - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad

Some have settled in towns in the Nile Valley, such as Daraw and Qena where they participate in the local markets or agriculture.
Some Ababda live in small villages along the Red Sea coast, and make their living as boatmen and fishermen
Modern houses have been provided to Ababda in various places. Some of the residents have built traditional  houses of palm leaf matting over a wooden tree branch framework in the courtyards.  These are the buyut burush.
Ababda camel traders can often be found doing business in Upper Egyptian camel markets. The two largest of these markets are in Daraw on the river and Shalatayn on the coast. Daraw seems to be near the territorial borders of both the Ababda and Bisharin tribes, they both trade at that market.
The Ababda are considered skilled herders and camel breeders. Children will learn to identify all the individual tracks of animals that belong to the family.
Current major lineages for the Ababda they are Hamedab, Ahebab and Melaikab.

Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Fatma - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Abdallah and his boat - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
Ababda's Handcrafts - Photo by/ Ahmed F.Gad - Copyright © 2011
South of Marsa Alam, the Wadi el-Gemal Protected Area covers 60km of the Red Sea coast and includes both water and land features. Along the coast are the Wadi Gemal Islands, coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves,  Seagrass beds feed the endangered Dugong, and Green Turtle, which nests on the coast and islands. At the mouth of Wadi Gemal, a flowing freshwater stream mingled with seawater forms a low-salinity marsh that supports reed-beds and Dôm palms. Inland is Gebel Hamata (1977m), where ibex and gazelles are still found.


A privately-owned eco-lodge, named el-Fustat (the camp), has been set up in the protectorate. Tourists can take overnight camel trips up the Wadi for a wilderness experience.  Wildlife and bird watching trips are available as well. Ababda men serve as guides, cooks and animal wrangling experts.
They are described as:
"The Ababda are nomadic pastoralists, who graze their herds on the vegetation found in the wadi. They build huts called “birsh” out of tree branches and cover them with matting made from dom palm fiber. They live mainly on milk and dhurra, the latter eaten raw or roasted. They are very superstitious and are indifferent toward material things. They have a deep respect for nature, are self-sufficient, hospitable and have great tribal solidarity."


8 comments:

  1. I didn't know you have a blog! It's great:)
    Great pics and great info, I wouldn't even know about Ababda tribe if it wasn't for Characters of Egypt Festival. It was one of the coolest things ever in my life!

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  2. انا فعلا كنت عايزة اعرف عن سكان الصحرا الشرقية اى معلومات - شكرا لمجهودك

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  3. Thank you Giulia, i just made it new... will add similar stuff from time to time!! Keep eye on it and feel always free to leave your comments!!

    All the best,
    Ahmed

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Great pics. Thanks for sharing!
    Learn more about the Beja people at . http://www.adroub.net

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  6. Che fotografie meravigliose :)

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  7. Hello, Can i use some of your pictures for a video that i'll create about the Beja people?

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  8. Hi there, thanks for viewing the article and taking the time to write me!
    i would like to advice you that All rights are reserved. No part of this page may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the Author.

    For information contact:

    Ahmed Fouad Gad: ahmed.redsea@gmail.com

    Ps: I usually don't mind if the photos are going to be used as non-profit educational material as long as you mention the source.
    Cheers
    Ahmed

    ReplyDelete