A Culture of Desert Survival


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Bedouin Proverbs from Sinai and the Negev

Clinton Bailey; Foreword by William W. Hallo

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For 3000 years the Bedouin people have conveyed the wisdom of their culture from one generation to the next by means of spoken proverbs. This anthology presents 1,350 of these proverbs, almost none of which have been heard outside the Bedouin world before. Clinton Bailey has collected Bedouin proverbs and documented the life and survival techniques of this hardy people during more than thirty years of fieldwork in the Negev and Sinai deserts. His is the only extensive written record of the rapidly disappearing Bedouin culture.
The rich treasury of proverbs is organized around various subjects relating to the primary theme of Bedouin life: survival under harsh desert conditions. Bailey presents each proverb in Arabic and English, situates it within Bedouin culture, and explains how it relates to economic, psychological, or social survival. He provides an unprecedented view of Bedouin life as well as insights into the wider Arab world and the Arabic language.

Clinton Bailey is visiting professor of Bedouin culture and Middle Eastern politics at Trinity College, Hartford. He has been an advocate and activist on behalf of Bedouin civil rights in Israel since 1978 and has served as consultant on Bedouin culture to the BBC, the British Museum, and the Museum of Bedouin Culture in Kibbutz Lahav, Israel. He is the author of Bedouin Poetry from Sinai and the Negev and many articles on Middle Eastern affairs.

“Not merely an anthology of Bedouin proverbs, this book is a unique treasury of rich, oral traditional lore.”—Bridget Connelly, emerita professor, University of California Berkeley

"[P]robably the best collection of Bedouin poetry in print. . . .provide[s] an invaluable insight into the culture of a society. . .Bailey has managed to swoop down at the last second, so to speak, before many of the cultural trademarks of Bedouin society disappear."—Magen Broshi, Haaretz.com

“A book remarkable for its content—the proverbs have not been collected previously in a systematic way, nor have they been published in English before—and its timing. This is a work of historical preservation. . . . Bailey is a leading expert on the Bedouin tribes in Sinai and the Negev, neighboring desert areas in Egypt and Israel. . . . While Bailey’s thoughtful writing combined with the proverbs provides a textured portrait of Bedouin society, the book also raises questions about the possibilities for truly understanding another culture.”—Sandee Brawarsky, Jewish Week

"This excellent book will be an important resource for generations to come, as ancient, historically oral societies may increasingly retain their folklore in written form. . . . This book is highly recommended for students, scholars of most disciplines, professionals, business people, policy and political analysts interacting with the Bedouin, indeed anyone interested in learning more about the Bedouin of the Middle East."—Alean Al-Krenawi, Middle East Journal



“A compilation of 1350 Bedouin proverbs, it is testament to a refined sense of justice developed over the millennia by wandering tribes—among them, the ancient Israelites who made rules by which people could live in hard places where sedentary civilization offered no protection.”—Abraham Rabinovich, The Australian

“Ironically, it may be an Israeli researcher who proves a major instrument for preserving Bedouin tradition for the Bedouin themselves.”—Abraham Rabinovich, The Jerusalem Post

"Reading the introductions to each chapter and then the annotated proverbs is not only a scholarly feast by certainly a delight of general readers as well. . . . Clinton Bailey presents a treasure-trove of Bedouin wisdom based on a life of experiences and observations in the desert. . . Irreplaceable."—Wolfgang Mieder, Proverbium

". . . this painstaking work of cultural preservation. . . . is remarkable for its content—these proverbs have never before been collected systematically. . . . This erudite collection of proverbs provides a lively and textured portrait of Bedouin society and is an invaluable key to understanding Bedouin culture.  The book will contribute significantly to the study of the Bedouin and will be of immeasurable value to scholars in the field.  Clinton Bailey's study is a useful reference for institutions, colleges, universities, and individuals interested in Arabic language, sociology, anthropology, and folklore."—Aref Abu-Rabia, Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam
ISBN: 9780300098440
Publication Date: April 10, 2004
512 pages, 6.125 x 9.25
48 b/w illus.
Bedouin Law from Sinai and the Negev

Justice without Government

Clinton Bailey

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