Introduction / History The traditional homeland of the Bedouin is the Arabian Desert in the Middle East; however, some groups have migrated into northern Africa. The Chaamba Bedouin live in the central area of Algeria, in the regions known as El Golea and El Oued. These regions lie on the northern edge of the Sahara Desert.
The Bedouin fall into two basic social classes. One class is known as the "true" Bedouin, and they live as nomadic shepherds. The other group has embraced farming and is known as the fellahin. The fellahin lead a more settled life on the edge of the desert. In contrast, the "true" Bedouin have been known for raiding caravans that cross their paths while journeying across barren deserts. They move into the desert during the rainy winter seasons and back to the desert's edge during the hot, dry summers. Most of the Chaamba Bedouin are of the fellahin type and live in the fertile regions bordering the desert. They speak Badawi, or as it is more commonly called, Bedouin Arabic.
What are their lives like? In general, the Bedouin have a relatively harsh existence. Those who live as nomads have no permanent homes, but live in portable, black tents made from woven, goat hair. The tents are divided by a decorative partition called a gata. Half of the tent is for the women, children, cooking utensils, and storage. The other half contains a fireplace and is used for entertaining. The women do most of the work, while the men socialize and make plans for the group.
Dairy products are the main food source for the Bedouin. Milk from camels and goats is made into yogurt and a type of butter called ghee. Most of their meals consist of a bowl of milk, yogurt, or rice covered with ghee. Round loaves of unleavened bread are also served when available. Dates, which can be found in desert oases, are eaten for dessert. Meat is only served on special occasions such as marriage feasts, ceremonial events, or when guests are present.
To endure the extreme heat of the desert, the Bedouin wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. It is very loose-fitting, allowing for the circulation of air. It is designed to cover the entire body except the face, hands, and feet.
Although the Bedouin once considered it degrading to have manual labor jobs, this has changed somewhat in recent years. Due to the need for better health conditions, more money, and better living conditions, some have accepted wage-paying jobs. However, most still despise this type of work.
What are their beliefs? Almost all of the Bedouin in Algeria are Malikite Muslims. Islam is based on the teachings of the prophet, Mohammed. The Koran (holy book of Islam) was supposedly given to Mohammed by the angel Gabriel.
Islam is a religion of works that is centered on five basic teachings or pillars. These are (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; and (5) He must try to make at least one pilgrimage to Mecca in his lifetime.
Islam has greatly influenced the lives of the Bedouin. For example, to preserve their people, the Bedouin are only allowed to marry those inside their own group. Also, the society is patrilineal, with inheritances passed down through the males.
What are their needs? In most interpretations of Shariah, conversion by Muslims to other religions is forbidden and is termed apostasy. Muslim theology equates apostasy to treason, and in most interpretations of shariah, the penalty for apostasy is death.
Evangelization efforts among the Bedouin are challenging due to the harsh nature of their lifestyle. There is a great need for a strong Christian witness among the Chaamba Bedouin.
Prayer Points * Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to reach out and share the love of Christ with them.
* Pray that God will raise up faithful intercessors who will stand in the gap for the Bedouin.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the few known Chaamba Bedouin believers living in Algeria.
* Pray that their traditional Muslim culture will soften, creating open doors for the Gospel to be preached among them.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to open the hearts of the Bedouin towards Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Chaamba Bedouin.