The Arabian Desert is the second largest subtropical desert in the world. It covers almost the entire Arabian Peninsula. Almost a third of the desert is covered in sand, and temperatures can reach a sweltering 129 degrees Fahrenheit in places. Despite only one river running through the Arabian Desert, groups of humans inhabit the desert and survive the inhospitable climate.
Humans have lived in the Arabian Desert as far back as early Pleistocene times, approximately 2.6 million years ago. Artifacts have been found over the breadth of the desert, showing that humans lived in different areas at that time. Their way of life included breeding camels, Arabian horses and sheep. They also took part in agriculture.
People living in the Arabian Desert are known as Bedouins. Bedouins are nomadic; they have no fixed place to live. They travel from place to place earning a living as tradesmen, stockbreeders and transporters. Some Bedouins move seasonally, while others move all the time. However, in the 21st Century some Bedouins have had to adapt by settling in small villages. They split their time between making a living in the desert and staying in a village as they get older. They use the internet and TV to help create new business.
For those Bedouins living full time in the desert, shelter comes in the form of a tent. The tent must be lightweight so they can move it easily during their travels. The tent size depends on the size of the owner’s family and his status. It is made from the woven hair of sheep and goats. The hair is usually black, which absorbs the desert’s heat and keeps the inside cool. A curtain divides the inside of the tent into a men and women’s section. The women’s section has food stores and cooking equipment, and is not seen by any man except the tent’s owner.
Historically, the Bedouins used to earn a living by taming wild camels and Arabian horses over 3,000 years ago. Since the 14th century, when the Romans opened sea routes for trading, the value of livestock has declined. While they do still deal with livestock, both as a source of food and to in trade, the Bedouins have had to adapt to modern society, and they now own modern technology like trucks to transport tourists across the desert.
Despite their lifestyle changes, Bedouins still hold traditional values. Bedouin Arabs are generous and play host to other Bedouins. They don’t particularly welcome outsiders, often becoming aggressive to them if their honor is threatened. Marriages are arranged by families. Boys and girls are separated at a young age, so it’s up to parents to find suitable spouses.
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