Bedouins in Egypt

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Desert Bedouins used the weakening of Egyptian central power and invaded into delta at the end of 6th dynasty rule. They were attracted by wealth and verdant valley. These nomadic tribes of Asian origin were a continual threat for Egypt, so the Pharaohs had to drove them out of their territory.

Who were the desert Bedouins?

The Egyptians called the Bedouins Shasu. These nomadic tribes of Semitic origin lived in clans on Sinai Peninsula and its surroundings in large desert area with indented relief - mountains were 2,000 meters high, paths were full of hairpin bends and hard to access, the climate was harsch and dry. When the Egyptians tried to follow the Bedouins, they were attacked by small groups of Bedouins in terrain well-known for them. The Bedouins were able to attack and plunder a caravan incredibly fast. But they were traders as well, who made their living by barter and came in Egypt to sell antimony used in cosmetics for make-up preparation.

They were formed from poor tribes living in tents. The Bedouins made their living by farming (camels, cows and sheeps), hunting (gazelles and oryxes) and arid and only little fertile soil cultivation. When the central power was strong in Egypt, the Bedouins cut down only for trading. But as soon as the power was weakened, they attacked their richer neighbour. They were traditional enemies of Egypt, who didn't hesitate to offer their guide services to other armies, which fought with Egypt. The Bedouins guided the soldieries of Assyrian ruler Esarhaddon into the Nile delta in the 7th century BC and they even gave him camels needed for transport of water.

Bedouins - clothing and appearance

The Bedouins had beards clipped into a tip. They wore long habits with geometric motifs embroideries. Their women wore dresses in the length of half calf and with one bare shoulder. The clothes were white decorated with red figures and coloured strips. Footwear they made of very fine leather dyed red.

The reign of Pepi II. was too long and it was the beginning of destabilization period in Egypt, which was slowly divided into smaller areas, where various dynasties ruled parallelly. The Bedouins profitted from that harmful athmosphere - they invaded into Egypt and settled in rich Nile delta. Let's mention that already general Weni had a lot of work to defeat the Bedouins under Pepi I rule, the father of Pepi II. Egypt was still united at that time, but under Pepi II. rule the situation was far more complex for effective defence in Egypt.

Amenemhet I. and ruler's walls

Amenemhet I., the founder of the 12th dynasty, came to the throne at time, when the power was strengthened by his predecessors from the 10th and 11th dynasty. Amenemhet I. wanted to protect the land from potential incursions of nomadic tribes, so he started building a number of fortresses on the eastern delta verge. These buildings should create an impenetrable rampart, which should stop any invasion attempts immediately. The buildings were called ruler's walls in elder texts. Ruler's walls should especially strenghten the vulnerable part of land.

Amenemhet's successors tried to follow his politics and protect the Egyptians, who worked in turquoise mines on the Sinai Peninsula. Permanent controls were initiated, which monitored the movement of all foreigners in the area. Egypt lived in fear of Bedouin attacks for several centuries, which wasn't fulfilled except a few cases. But famous Thutmose III had to face a Bedouin rebellion under the 18th dynasty rule, which he suppressed after a fierce fight. The danger of Bedouin tribes seemed to be stave off for a long time.

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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