Bedouin Tent - Beit Alshaar

Bedouin Tent - Beit Alshaar

The Bedouins have always lived in long, low, black tents made of goat and hair cloth, known as beit al-sha’ar, or “house of hair”, which are woven by the women.

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The tents are supported by a line of tall central poles in the middle while the front, back and sides are supported by lower poles. The number of poles is an indication of the owner’s wealth and social standing.

The tent is well adapted to desert life –it can be packed up and ready to move within an hour. In summer, when all that is required is shade from the sun, shelter from any wind and privacy from passers-by, the older, poorer quality tents will come out of storage. Many are ‘patched’ with cardboard boxes, bits of sacking or sheets of wood or metal. The better quality tents will be saved for the harsher winter months. Sections of cloth which are rolled up, along the sides of the tent, during the day are dropped down at night to provide additional shelter.

The tents can be up to twenty or thirty metres long and are divided into two sections by a woven curtain known as a ma’nad. The mag’ad or “sitting area”, reserved for the men and for the reception of guests, is kept open during the day while the maharama or “place of the women”, usually on the right as you face the tent, is kept closed. Nobody from outside the family would ever venture to intrude upon the women –female visitors may only enter if specifically invited.

The public area is normally arranged to receive guests, who sit, lounge or lie upon mattresses arranged around a small fire. The women are free to join in and usually don’t hesitate to do so. No discussion of money or business will ever take place inside the tent. A guest will be received inside, will sit and drink tea or coffee, but if he has come to discuss business, eventually, when the talk gets serious, the whole party –including the women –will move outside, taking mattresses and tea etc. with them.


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