9/20/95 6:13:31 PM
AnnGardner (Responding to a question on Bedouins and Development): They always have needed income, as they cannot survive in a desert without purchasing goods. But now we are talking about their land being claimed by the state to sell to Hilton and such. They do make $$$ on tourism but it has become the main source for them and they are dealing with the lowest economic level. Mostly backpacking tourists or people who come on treks via a middle person.
EvaS: Are the Bedouin Moslems? Are the women
veiled and were they always?
AnnGardner: Yes. They are Muslims and
they veil but they had many traditional beliefs that were not orthodox, such as the women praying to the new moon. But now they are exposed to radio & TV from Saudi Arabia and clerics from Egypt who are changing how they act as Muslims. Much more conservative. Women stay in the house.
TigerTavii: Ann did you live among the Bedouin?? As in with a family?? How did they react to you?
AnnGardner: Yes, I lived with a family that
had two wives and a total of six sons and two girls. Each wife had a
seperate house. Most of the "kids" were a few years older than myself. I
was welcomed as the Bedouins have a long tradition of hospitality.
EvaS: What do you know about the origins of praying to the new moon?
Sounds very ancient.
AnnGardner: They don't know the origins but their
life was very grounded in spiritual relations to the desert and such.
Spipapu: What forms did the hospitality that you experienced take?
AnnGardner: Well, letting me stay with them and never accepting board.
Not many Americans would accept someone who appeared on their doorstep, I
TigerTavii: Were you treated like a woman in their culture Ann
or like an American?
AnnGardner: Both. I was never held to the codes
for women as strictly; like I went wherever I wanted when I wanted.
EvaS: Ann, do the Bedu practice female genital mutilation?
AnnGardner: Yes. When a girl is about eight they cut off the tip of her
clitoris, which also affects the growth of her inner vaginal lips. A girl
would be considered unclean and immodest otherwise. They said it was for
religious cleanliness but this is not in the Koran and is pre-Islamic in
TigerTavii: I find that practice hard to accept Ann. What did
AnnGardner: Yes, it is terrible and I think it should
change. Since their society is going through flux anyway, I am hopeful
that any future educational programs can stop it.
TeacherMsJ: What was
your typical day like? How long did you live with the Bedouins?
AnnGardner: I spent my days with the women and the older girls --often
herding or visiting. I have spent about three years total with them.
EvaS: Have they always practiced genital mutiliation? Is it traditional
AnnGardner: Yes, they have always practiced genital
mutilation and I think educational programs could address that and wife-
Spipapu: Is there any effort to keep some of the old ways?
AnnGardner: Well, they still herd in the springtime some, and while they
no longer need to weave tents much, there is a tourist interest in
Bedouin handicrafts, like rugs and beadwork. Also, the family has always
been very important and remains so.
EvaS: Ann, since they're now
cloistered pretty much, what is courtship like? Or are marriages arranged?
AnnGardner: The marriages used to be arranged, but they would meet
secretly while herding with boyfriends. Now they can perhaps marry openly
by choice but the father may pick the lineage and then the girl picks
the individual, if he is interested. Actually, it was a radio program from
Saudi that explained that arranged marriages are against Islam and that
helped ease things. There is no courtship,formally .
what were your research goals? And what were some of your results/
AnnGardner: My research goals were, at first, to
understand women and their daily lives, but as development changed their
lives so dramtically, I became interested in development in regard to very
personal issues. Such as gossip networks and power, as well as the bigger
economic problems. For example, now that women are more isolated, they no
longer have as wide a support system.
EvaS: How old are the girls
usually when they marry? And how do they feel about second wives?
AnnGardner: Anywhere from about fourteen to early twenties and I know of
only one set of two wives that get along. It is very problematic to have a
Spipapu: How will the new Palestinian state affect the
AnnGardner: If the state and other countries have open
borders, the Bedouins in Sinai are well-placed to be truckers or laborers,
as they have relatives in most of the surrounding countries and speak
EvaS: Tell us about your findings re the gossip network.
This interests me greatly. In our own culture, too.
was one of my main focuses. I was especially interested in how women would use
gossip to better their situation. This was especially the case in a marital
dispute, when a woman would leave her husband and ask for a legal
mediation to air her complaints. So beforehand, she and her family, as
well as he and his family, would try to get public opinion on their side
TigerTavii: Ann you mentioned earlier something about
domestic violence. Could you expound on that?
AnnGardner: Almost all
the wives were beaten, especially during the first seven years of marriage and
the husbands were allowed to do so by tribal law AS LONG AS there was no
blood. Some fathers, though, would object even if there was no blood
TigerTavii: Why the first 7 years??!! And what were the
conditions that a woman would seek legal means?
AnnGardner: It took
that long for a bad arranged marriage to even out, through time and
children. A woman just had to leave and seek sancturary but often her
father arranged the marriage for his own socio-economic ties, and thus her
family would not extend themselves too far on her behalf.
What is your experience of wearing the veil? Do you agree with that
AnnGardner: Well, it keeps the intense sun from burning
one's nose and lips! But it should be a woman's choice.
LOL Ann....good point about the burns. :)
TigerTavii: Why do the men
insist on this tradition of the veil?
AnnGardner: Because the woman
would be considered immodest and thus the honor of her family would be
TigerTavii: Ann, what about the schooling and medical needs
of the Bedouins?
AnnGardner: Israel provided them with good medical
care but they were too nomadic to start a school until 1981. Egypt does
not provide good medical care, unless they can afford to go to private
doctors. And the school that the Bedouins who I know go to is not good,
but the director wants to improve it.
TigerTavii: What has been the
US influence in this region Ann??
AnnGardner: The US sponsored the
Camp David Peace Accords and thus the return of Sinai to Egypt. Much of
the UN force stationed there are American and we have given over $30
billion in aid per the Camp David Accords. In fact, the US Agency for
International Development planned and funded much of the development of
Spipapu: What are they taught in school? Is there a difference
in male and female education? Which language is the standard?
AnnGardner: Right now, they are taught by rote, they do not learn much.
Some girls attend till puperty. They need a female teacher. They learn
written Arabic, or Modern Standard Arabic, and can only converse in
the Egyptian dialect
TeacherMsJ: How many Bedouin are there?
AnnGardner: I lived with a clan of about 650 but their tribe in all of
Sinai numbered around 6,500 or so.
EvaS: Ann, what is a typical day
like for a wife?
AnnGardner: Well, nowadays she sees to the household
chores, of which there are many more since they are settled. Meals are a
much bigger production for instance, whereas before she didn't even have to
fix lunch if she was off with the goats.
TeacherMsJ: What kind of
housing do they live in?
AnnGardner: Those who can afford to now live
in cinder-block homes, while others live in wood shacks.
they westernizing their living habits? Clothes? Activities like shopping,
going to movies, etc.?
AnnGardner: Not westernizing in that way, but
they are much more involved in consumerism. Now they have funiture, lots of
changes of clothes, etc.
TigerTavii: Are the women allowed to travel
AnnGardner: Not far without their husband's permission but a few
times during the Israeli occupation some young wives left their husbands
by riding on the buses! I think they were following my example. Nowadays,
they are too frightened of the Egyptians to ride alone.
many of these men take on non-Bedouin women as wifes/mistresses? How do
the Bedouin women feel about this??
AnnGardner: Yes, there have been
lots of affairs with the European tourist girls, especially over the last ten
years. But only two marriages and neither woman is accepted and neither
lives in the village.
EvaS: I guess the big test of their lifestyle is
whether they have tv or not. Do they?
AnnGardner: Yes, the power lines
came in the late 1980s but many cannot understand the Arabic as it is
either a different dialect or is a form used just in media.
Ann, is there a preference for bearing male children rather than females as
there is in India?
AnnGardner: Yes, but a mother will also want girls
to help with the housework.
Spipapu: Would you say their current living
patterns have less effect on the environment than when they were nomadic?
AnnGardner: No, because before they were all spread out in camps.
Whereas now they are all in one place.
Spipapu: Are they concerned
with the environment?
AnnGardner: Just in the immediate sense, like
not enough local firefuel sources or the buildup of trash.
TigerTavii: Ann, what is the Bedouin concerns with the current violence
in the region?
AnnGardner: All of it is in Egypt proper, not in
Sinai as the Bedouins would never allow that to happen. So tourism is
TigerTavii : I see. Why would the Bedouins never allow
violence to happen? How do they enforce that?
would notice what strangers were up to and stop it.
Spipapu: Thanks everyone. I learned
EvaS: Ann, this was
TigerTavii: Thanks to all for coming
and the great questions. Ann - Thanks SO MUCH!!! :)
BillTur: This has been
a great presentation, one of the most interesting we have had.
You are most welcome! Good Night all.
9/20/95 7:14:36 PM Closing Log file.
SOME LINKS TO RELEVANT SITES:
Live AOL Chat on Sinai Bedouin Women with Ann Gardner.
Fourth World Project
Human Rights Watch
Female Genital Mutilation
Global Fund for Women
Women of Africa
Women's Studies Resources
Women in Development Network
International Affairs Resources
Middle East Network Information Center