Introduction / History The Arab culture was developed by tribes of nomads and villagers who lived in the Arabian Desert. It was from there that Arab migrations throughout the Middle East and northern Africa began, leading to the expansion of the Arab world. Today, Saudi Arabia is home to a number of different types of Arabs. The Gulf Arabs (also known as the Saudi Arabs) live primarily along southern edges of the Arabian Desert. They speak Arabiya, or, as it is more commonly known, Gulf Arabic.
There are two basic classes of Arabs: the true nomads and the fellahin, or those who have embraced farming. The nomads are best known for their journeys across barren deserts on camels, occasionally raiding caravans that cross their paths. The fellahin are more settled, living on the edge of the desert.
The Gulf Arabs of Saudi Arabia are primarily animal herders. They move into the desert during the rainy winter season, then back to the desert's edge during the dry, hot summer months.
What are their lives like? Life for Gulf Arabs is one of harsh existence with few material belongings. Their main possession is the home - a long tent made from woven goat or animal hair. These tents are not permanent dwellings and are divided into two parts by a decorative partition called a gata. Typically, one half of the tent is for the women, children, cooking utensils, and storage, while the other half is for the men. The men's section contains a fireplace and is used for entertaining guests. Men sit and make plans for the group, while the women do most of the household chores.
Animals are very important to the Gulf Arab lifestyle. Those who stay close to the desert's edge herd goats and sheep; whereas, those who travel and raid in the desert rely solely on their camels. Sheep and goats are raised for monetary value, and camels are used for transportation.
Dairy products have been the traditional food source of Gulf Arabs. Camels' and goats' milk is drunk fresh or made into yogurt and a kind of butter called ghee. A typical Arab meal consists of a bowl of milk or yogurt, or rice covered with ghee. Round loaves of unleavened bread are also eaten when available. Dates, which can be found in desert oases, serve as desserts after meals. Meat is eaten only on occasions such as wedding feasts, special ceremonies, or when entertaining guests.
In accordance with their Muslim religion, Gulf Arab marriages are typically endogamous, which means that they only marry within a small social circle. Inheritance is patrilineal (passed down from fathers to their sons). Gulf Arab clothing is designed for the harsh desert climate. It is made of lightweight, light-colored fabric and is also loose-fitting, allowing for the circulation of air.
In the past, Gulf Arabs considered it shameful and degrading to have jobs doing manual labor. However, this has changed somewhat in recent years. Because of the need for improved health facilities, more income, and better housing, some have accepted wage-paying jobs. Nevertheless, most of the Gulf Arabs still despise such positions.
What are their beliefs? Half of the Gulf Arabs in Saudi Arabia are Shafi'ite Muslim; many are Hanbalite (Wahhabite) Muslim; and the rest are Malikite Muslim. As Muslims, they follow the teachings of the prophet Mohammed. They believe that the only way to God is through following the teachings of their holy book, the Koran. Their religion is one of works based on these five "pillars": (1) A Muslim must affirm that "there is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." (2) Five times a day he must pray while facing Mecca. (3) He must give an obligatory percentage (very similar to tithes) on an annual basis. (4) He must fast during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. (5) He must try to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in his lifetime.
What are their needs? A profession of faith in Jesus may cost a person his family, his honor, his job, or even his life. Evangelization of this people group will be challenging due to the nature of the Arabs' lifestyle and belief system. Prayer is the key to reaching them with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord of the harvest to open the doors of Saudi Arabia to the preaching of the Gospel.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to call people who are willing to go and share the love of Christ with Gulf Arabs.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Pray that strong local Christian fellowships will be raised up among the Gulf Arabs. * Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group's primary language.
North, Ash Sharqiyah Province, from southeast Kuwait border inland, then east to Persian Gulf north of Al Damman; south, Yeman and Oman borders, Ash Sharqiyah and Najran provinces. (Source: Ethnologue 2016)