Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Fellahin of Egypt are indigenous rural villagers mostly living in Upper, Middle and Lower Egypt along the Nile valley. They are believed to be among the oldest farmers on earth whose highly productive agriculture, characterized by total reliance on irrigation and intensive labor, contributed to the rise of the ancient Egyptian civilization. They live in compact villages with walls constructed of stones or sun-dried bricks. Traditional houses are rectangular in shape, with flat roofs of wooden beams and earth. Prior to Egypt's 1952 land reform legislation, which subsequently redistributed land to the landless, the Fellahin were mostly tenants and agricultural laborers.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Africa --Northern Africa



OWC Code


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Fellahin (MR13) collection covers historical, cultural and economic information mostly from the 1910s-1970s, with some dating back to the first half of the nineteenth century.

Three books in the collection stand out as the basic sources on the Fellahin. The first is a book by a native Fellahin scholar which analyzes the social and psychological aspects of education in Silwa, a Fellahin village in Aswan Province where the author grew up (Ammar 1954: no. 1). The second is a detailed ethnographic account of the Upper Egyptian Fellahin as observed by a British anthropologist in 1920-1926 (Blackman 1927: no. 1). The third is a study of ethos and psychology in Lower and Middle Egypt by a Syrian Catholic priest who lived among the Fellahin in Lowe and Middle Egypt in early 1930s (Ayrout 1945: no. 3). Together, these three sources cover a wide variety of themes including family life, community organization, class divisions, economic activities, trade, religious practices, socialization and culture change, circa 1920s-1950s.

The collection also includes an account by a nineteenth century German physician which provides a rich description of religious and secular festivals and ceremonies in Upper Egypt as observed in 1863-1875 (Klunzinger 1878: no. 9). This document is the oldest document in the collection, covering useful information relating to religious processions, entertainments, costumes, dances and music.

A number of documents focus on spirits and traditional medicinal practices with particular reference to women and spirit possession (Rasoul 1955: no. 6; Hopkins 2007: no. 14), and conception of illness (Blackman 1926: no. 5).

Another document in the collection focus on agrarian transformations that occurred in rural Egypt beginning from 1980s when President Mubarak, reversing Nasser’s brand of socialism, introduced liberalization, including laws allowing for agricultural land to be sold and bought (Bush 2007: no. 13). Bush’s work especially focuses on the impact of liberalization on the land rights and security of Fellahin families.

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Hafeed –grandson from a son– Use GRANDPARENTS AND GRANDCHILDREN ( 603) with KINSHIP TERMINOLOGY ( 601)

Jinn –Superhuman beings– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776)

Mari –Saint, appellation given to highly venerated Coptic clergy– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793) with PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 792) and/or SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778)

Mulid en-Nebi –the annual celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed– Use ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL ( 796)

Omde –local representative of the Egyptian government– Use LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624)

Shaduf –man-operated wellsweeps used for lifting water for irrigation– Use WATER SUPPLY ( 312) with AGRICULTURAL MACHINERY ( 407)

Sibt –grandson from the daughter– Use GRANDPARENTS AND GRANDCHILDREN ( 603) with KINSHIP TERMINOLOGY ( 601)


Zar –spirits (often named) believed to posses and dwell in certain persons– Use SPIRITS AND GODS ( 776) with REVELATION AND DIVINATION ( 787)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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