Collection Description

Culture Name

Libyan Bedouin

Culture Description

The Libyan Bedouin are Arab nomadic pastoralists with ties to the Libyan Desert and Western Desert of Egypt. They share descent from the Arabian Peninsula tribe of Bani Sulaim and also have a common ancestress, Sa'ada, who provides the basis for a collective identity and status. Other large and small tribes of diverse ancestral backgrounds are also included among the Libyan Bedouin. Distinctive dialects of colloquial Arabic spoken among them are important markers of their Bedouin identity. Goats, sheep, cattle, and camels are the main herd animals. The location of seasonal grazing areas changes from year to year because of the region's variable rainfall patterns.


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Africa --Northern Africa




OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number. The Libyan-Bedouin file contains ethnographies which provide rich accounts and varying perspectives of Libyan-Bedouin culture and society. They also stand out in the general anthropological literature for their theoretical insight and sophistication. These works include Evans-Pritchard's historical and sociological analysis of the Sansusi Order (Evans-Pritchard 1949, no. 3), Emry's study of power in Bedouin society (Emry 1987, no. 17), Behnke's study of Bedouin political ecology, and Abu-Lughod's studies of gender and poetry (Abu-Lughod 1986, no. 10; 1990, no. 11; 1993, no. 13). These works are complimented by other studies in sociopolitical organization (Obermeyer 1969, no.1; Murray 1935, no. 9) and customary law (Mohsen 1971, no. 2; Kennett 1925, no. 8; Murray n.d., no. 16). Three studies examine more recent changes in Bedouin society as a result of sedentization, intrusion of the state, and economic development (Abou-Zeid 1959, no. 7; Davis 1987, no. 15; Sherbiny 1992, no. 18). For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this file, see the abstracts in the citations proceeding each document.

The culture summary was written by Donald P. Cole, November 1997.

BIYUT--descent group--613

DIYA--bloodwit--68*, 627

GABILLA--descent group--613, 619

GHINNAWA--love poems--5310, 831


MALIK--real property--423

RAMADAN--Islamic holy days--796

RIZIK--mobile property--422

WATAN--flood plain--133, 137

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