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Ababda on al-Quseir Beach (1960)
Ababda in the Wadi Um Ghamis (1960)

The Ababde or Ababda are a subgroup of the Bedjah . They live as nomads in the eastern desert of Upper Egypt between the Nile and Red Sea , in the area between Kosseir in the north and the southern border of Egypt , etc. a. in the Gebel Elba National Park and in Nubia in Northern Sudan . They feel most closely related to the bishop . Their language is the Bedscha language (Bedawi), besides they also use the Arabic language . A traditional and often used musical instrument of the Ababde is the five-string tanbura .

The Ababde are mostly of dark skin color and have black, but mostly not frizzy, but rather curly hair. They are said to be descendants of the ancient Troglodytes and Blemmyer . a. active as a caravan guide. Many of them served during the Mahdi uprising (1881–1899) with the Anglo-Egyptian troops. The number of Ababde was estimated at around 40,000 people around 1888; current figures are not known.

The Ababda in the northern, Egyptian area of ​​the eastern desert live in poverty and incomparable frugality. In the completely dead area they live in families with a few sheep, goats or camels. If you look around their storage areas, it is unclear what people and animals live on there. Their camels eat the sparse green of the Arabian acacia. With a pointed tongue they pull out the tiny leaves between the tightly lined, hard and long spines. Goats and sheep nibble on the bark and wood of these trees and on sparse, dry bushes. On their journey through the desert, the animals have nothing to drink for days or weeks. The nomads themselves are very frugal with drinking water. Even the meager food needs to be divided. If you come to the sea or to inhabited areas, then you will collect some food during your stay there, which you will eat sparingly on your way through the desert. In various places they then leave smaller portions of this food in a bundle on some acacia tree in order to have these weeks, usually months later, just in case on their way back. These bundles remain there untouched.

The nomads are small and weakly built, with almost black skin. The women are very shy of strangers. When strangers approach, they usually go a long way off the path and behave there, crouching away and completely wrapped in their shawls. It has even happened that when strangers appear, they climb onto the acacia trees and cling to branches there, completely huddled up, avoiding people passing by. As hired workers, employed Ababda are able and persevering. However, they hardly show any technical understanding and have to be learned from the basics. They are famous and sought after as trackers.

The following can be said about the wedding customs of Ababda: Boys and girls get to know each other during their families' crusades through the desert. While the parents are in the resting places, the children graze the goats and sheep in the closer and further vicinity. Apart from the marriages, which arise due to natural affection when getting to know each other and which make up about 50%, the other marriages come about by agreement of the parents. In any case, the man asks her father for the future man's hand. The trousseau for the poorest consists of about 5 Egyptian pounds, otherwise it also consists of a few sheep or goats. The weddings are celebrated at night and only when there is a full moon. The bride and groom sit separately in two pens or tents on the 3 nights of the festival, while outside dancing, partying and eating a roast lamb on a spit. Only after these wedding celebrations are the bride and groom allowed to approach each other. A man very rarely marries more than one woman because he is unable to feed them.

The eastern desert has become steadily drier over the past few decades; H. the few wells known mainly in the mountains are drying up or have mostly dried up because there has been no rain in recent years. As a result, living conditions for the nomads have deteriorated so much that the government advised them to settle in the Nile Valley. Nevertheless, it is only nomads who are currently employed and who have decided to settle permanently. While the activities of such Ababda men are mostly limited to work in the desert district, their families then live in the Nile Valley.


Web links

Commons : Ababde  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource Wikisource: Ababde  - Article of the 4th edition of Meyers Konversations-Lexikon