The desert-dwelling Bedouin have always been a subject of intense fascination. Their culture and ethics are still largely a mystery. Like other non-literate peoples, the Bedouin have a strong tradition of oral poetry, which plays an indispensible role in their daily life. Clinton Bailey has spent more than twenty years among the Bedouin of Sinai and the Negev, studying their culture and recording their poems as recited around the campfires. This book presents 113 poems which reflect Bedouin attitudes to a variety of personal, social and political experiences. Each poem is translated into English with an introduction describing its setting and with notes that clarify the cultural, linguistic and historical background. The poems are also presented in Arabic script and in phonemic transliteration. They are arranged according to their purpose: poems of expression, communication, instruction and entertainment, and poems reflecting the Bedouin response to Turkish, British, Egyptian, and Israeli rulers from 1882 to 1982.
The author also devotes chapters to discussing the role that poetry plays in Bedouin life, and describing how ‘desert’ poetry has persisted from pre-biblical times to the present. This thorough and original study makes a vital contribution to our knowledge of the Bedouin, and will be of great interest to Arabists, anthropologists, linguists, sociologists, biblical scholars, students of oral poetry, and all those who deal with the Arab world.
About the Author
Dr Clinton Bailey has lived among the Bedouin tribes in Sinai and the Negev for many years, has lectured on Bedouin culture and history at various universities, and is a founder of the Museum of Bedouin Culture in the Negev.