Blood and Poetry: Roots of Libyan Bedouin Society Essay

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The Sanusi Bedouin of Libya, also known as Libyan Bedouin, Sanusiya, or the Senussi of Cyrenaica, are a semi-nomadic people living primarily within the desert regions of Western Libya and Eastern Egypt (Figure 1). Due to their relative isolation and strict social hierarchy, the Libyan Bedouin have maintained the traditions, practices, and language of their Arabian ancestors. However, they also place great emphasis on religious learning, in large part due to the actions of Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi, The Grand Sanusi. The Bedouin have complex kinship patterns that act as the greatest means of social integration and stratification. Because the Bedouin are Sunni Muslims and thus believe that dancing, singing, and public displays…show more content…
Though, this practice of having leaders who are chosen based upon their kinship with former leaders but also requiring the leaders to demonstrate their own abilities, as well as the presence of social stratification and personal ownership of titles and items are more indicative of a chiefdom. However, given the low numbers of Bedouin who are together at any given time and the structure of law, the Bedouin fit most closely with a tribal structure. History of the Sanusi Bedouin Settling a Territory. Libyan Bedouin are considered to be true Arabs, in that they descend from Arabic invaders circa 1050-51 C.E. The invaders, consisting of two Arab tribes, the Beni Sulaym and the Beni Hilal, pushed into Libya during the Hilalian migration at this time. The tribes previously had settled in Upper Egypt after a failed attempt to push into Saudi Arabia. However, their culture, language, and religion, consistent with traditional Bedouin pastoralism, were not compatible with the existing Egyptian customs and so Egypt’s leadership encouraged the tribes into Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Tunis (Figure 2) in an attempt to use the tribes to dominate the indigenous, and rebellious, Berbers. By 1800, the descendent Arab tribes had carved, through a series of brutal wars, territories

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