Saharan Bedouin Nomad

It was a windy day in October when I got on a motorcycle with my Couchsurfing host and we toured a bit the Saharan plains. My host, Mohammad had mentioned when we had first met, his family being nomadic Bedouin Berbers before settling down in the small Saharan city of Merzouga. They started off very humbly and once the tourism picked up, the 5 brothers began to work in this sector, giving camel tours, taking care of their own as well as community members camels. Mohammed said that before tourism took off and the job sector was rich, their lives were painfully tough. They lived very poorly with rags and their family would move wherever their cattle would have food. His two young twin siblings had died of sickness during a cold winter, there were no medications or doctors around. He proudly mentioned how the Bedouin nomads were men of the tent, and that the women were the strongest and most hardworking.

That afternoon, we arrived at a Bedouin woman’s tent, her children were taken to the nearest school, located several kilometers away. While her husband was looking for a job in the city center, she took care of the tents and of the animals. She gave us a private tour and showed us how she tied the house up and the necessary things to keep in mind when moving the campsite. There were two little wooden statues that kept bad spirits away at the edge of their campsite. She said it got so cold at night, so it was extremely necessary to make sure that the tents were kept as airtight as possible. Money was an issue and moving around because of the cattle was also sometimes tough. The conditions in the Sahara are not the easiest either, the days are very warm and the nights are very cold. Her family consisted of 7 children, like most Bedouin Berbers. They are constantly on the move, with no permanent camping place. Their staple belongings include camels and tents.

She asked for a little tip afterward and mentioned how this would help cover water and coal costs. Fatima was a strong woman, who did not have it easy but laughed a lot and was proud of her Bedouin origins. Gradually the Bedouin nomads have been forced over the years to adapt to modern conditions, but their foundation of pastoral nomadism is still firm and the desert is still the place they call home.

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