Nuweiba (also spelled Nueiba) is a coastal town

in the eastern part of the Sinaï Peninsula in Egypt. Located on the coast of the Gulf of Agaba.

After the Six Day War when Israel occupied the area, Nuweiba Town was established just 1.5 km south of Tarabeen, under the Israeli name, Neviot. After the departure of the Israelis, the town expanded and Nuweiba Port, some 7 km to the south, was established and developed. Nuweiba castle, built on top of the remains of an older castle, has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage site

Bedouïn People

Bedouïn means “desert people”. They are Arabs and desert nomads. Bedouïn people were once the primary inhabitants of the Holy Land. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were most probably Bedouïns. Many elements of Bedouïn culture have not changed much since Biblical times.

Bedouïns have traditionally occupied the Sinaï Peninsula . Within the limits of declared Protected Areas they retain their traditional rights and continue to occupy their settlements.

The Sinaï is home to more than 20 Bedouïn tribes. Each one has its own territory, some tribes even have two separate territories. With the largest number belonging  to the Jabaliya tribe, inhabiting the north and the Muzeina tribe, one of the largest and most powerful tribes inhabiting the Southern Gulf from Nuweiba to Sharm el Sheikh.

The Bedouïn family we are working with belong to the Muzeina tribe.

The nomadic lifestyle

Bedouin people are used to their limitations and they are inherently environmentally aware and therefore natural conservationists which is an important part of their heritage. They have a system of alliance through which they protect wild plants and animals. They will close a certain valley for three to six months to prevent grazing until it has regrown, to respect sustainability and have tribal laws which prohibits the cutting of “green trees” with severe penalties. For Bedouins “killing a tree is like killing a soul”. Bedouins also know their limitations for accessing water, sometimes having no rain for up to five year, makes them very aware of the necessity and use of water.

In the past, the challenges of the nomadic lifestyle in the desert had split the work between men and women in a way where both groups contributed equally to their family’s economic well-being. Traditional values limit the mobility of the women to the area which is inhabited by their family. While being nomads, large Bedouin families lived at great distance from one another and the women moved freely in the vast desert landscape.

Traditional Handcraft

Each Bedouïn tribe member wears slightly clothes to indicate locality, social position and marital status, with these things usually being indicated by embroidery on their cloak, headdresses, jewelry and hairstyle worn on special occasions.

Throughout the past 20 years, handicraft initiatives have evolved allover Egypt aiming at creating income for women who are confined indoors. The rich cultural heritage of Bedouïns is shown in the unique and various handicraft designs and products.

The women became happy and enthusiast for doing something which could bring their families a bit of extra money, apart from their responsibilities including home management, shepherding and raising children.

Unfortunately in reaction to the political upheavals of since 2011, the flow of tourists have decreased drastically, but since the last five years this situation has promisingly changed a lot and now there is again new opportunity for showing, sharing and living the pure and special life style of the Bedouïn life.

Family life

Bedouïns are not respected unless they get married and have children. There are distinct terms for relatives on the mother’s side and relatives on the father’s side. An extended family household ceases to exist when the elderly husband or wife dies. When a mother is divorced, widowed or remarried her older sons form their own households. Divorce is fairly common and can be initiated by the man or women according to Muslim traditions. When it occurs the woman generally returns to live with her parents.

Many of Sinaï’s Bedouïns continue to harbor a deeply traditional allegiance to the tribe — in effect an extended family — above all else. They always think of the whole tribe as their family and they always try and help each other. They are also famous for their hospitality. Hospitality is regarded as an honor and a sacred duty.

North and South Sinaï

Two regions that should not be confused with each other. The north borders the Mediterranean Sea, Israel and Palestinian territory. This, combined with the closer link between the Bedouïn here and Gazans and the lack of tourism as a source of income, make the Northern Bedouïn somewhat more rebellious and the region more restless compared to the quiet South Sinaï.

Sinaï’s desert landscape is characterized by special variation. We hardly encounter the stereotypical image of the vast expanse of sand as far as the eye can see. Wherever you are in Sinaï’s desert sand, everywhere you are accompanied by beautifully colored and shaped rocks and mountains. Stone types, including limestone, sandstone, granite, basalt, quartzite and schist, alternate, as do wadis, ravines and oases with occasional Bedouïn settlements. For more than ten thousand years people have been walking through the Sinaï: from trade caravans to pilgrims to Mecca.

There are still many remnants of this former human presence. In this way, centuries-old texts adorn rocks on various places, including in Wadi Muqattab, ‘the Valley of the Scriptures’. In the middle of the desert near Serabit el-Khadim are ruins of a Pharaonic temple, dedicated to Hathor, ‘goddess of Turquoise’. Of a completely different nature are the Nawamis: probably ceremonial tombs for nomadic shepherds from the Early Bronze Age (3100-2200 BC).

Just being in the desert is a special experience. Far away from human civilization, without a telephone range and surrounded by overwhelming vistas – of landscape and starry sky – makes a deep impression on most people. In the desert you can really “hear” the silence.