View Full Version : Gebeliya Bedouins

Monday, November 3rd, 2003, 09:22 AM
El-Gebeliya (also spelled Jebelillah, Jabaliyah, Jabâliyah, Jabaliyah, Jabalya, Jabaliya)

An exception among the Bedouin tribes in Sinai is the Gebeliya tribe. As the word "mountaineers" indicates this tribe lives in the high mountains of St. Catherine. Originally they were brought from Eastern Europe (most likely Yugoslavia) to serve in the monastery of St. Catherine. Soon they converted to Islam and adapted to nomadic customs, though still serving the monastery to which hey are committed until today. Naturally the Gebeliya tribe is held in low esteem not being of true Bedu origin.

1929- 420
1935- 400
1985- 500
1987- About 2,000

Tribal Divisions: Hamayidah, Salayimah, Wahibat.

In 1935 Murray was able to identify 6 sub-divisions: Wilad Masa'ud, Wilad Musa'ad, Wiheibat, Wilad Salim, Heimat and Wilad Gindi. He also noted that the Taban in Feiran, Beziya at Tor and Sattila are offshoots of the Gebilliya, as are the Mu'atira at Tor.

Until the 1956 war in the Sinai, the Gebeliya and the Alegat-Said shared a common Mulid (the annual Zuara) at the tomb of Nebi-Saleh; however, something in the war forced them to conduct the ceremonies at separate locations. But the tribes are still apparently close. Now the Gebeliya go to Aaron's tomb down the road, and the Alegat-Said go to Nebi Salah's tomb. Both go in the 8th month. The Garasha and Sawalha also go to Nebi-Salah's tomb for their Mulid but in the 7th Month.

The regular Zuara is conducted on Fridays and Mondays at Nebi Saleh's tomb. People come the day before and stay through the day after.


DIA has them living at TUR mountain; but a more accurate description I think would be From Tor to the region near the monastery and in the Wadi-e-Sheikh.


The tribe take their bisha cases to a special holy judge in El Arish or Ismailliah. Apparently there is a small village half way between Ismailliah and Port Suez called Abu Abulswer. An interesting thing here. The judge holds a hot rock in his hand which the defendant must lick, as opposed to a hot branding iron, as I have normally told about.

History and Tribal Interaction

The word means mountaineers. They are descendants of Bosnian and Wallachian serfs, and perhaps other Eastern European Christian slaves and serfs brought by Justinian to build and service St. Catherine's monastery. One theory is that they came from a combination of 100 Rumanian slaves and 100 Egyptian slaves. I doubt we will ever know the exact truth. Fields is of the opinion that at least some are of pure Balkan stock with little intermarriage. They converted to Islam, along with the rest of the Sinai during the Islamic conquest. Some experts say that because they are not pure Arabs, the Gebeliya are considered inferior to the rest of the Bedouins of the south and do not intermarry with the rest of the Tuara. I have yet to discover any evidence of intermarriage; but I have discovered that they at least have friends with members of other tribes. Very closely attached to their land, living in mud huts, as well as stone structures built by the Israelis during the occupation, rather than grass huts or tents.

On July 4th, 1987 while visiting the tomb of Nebi Salah I found a member of the Alegat-Said working closely with a member of the Gebeliya in order to white wash the tomb. We were later met by a bedouin who identified himself as being with the Marafat tribe from El Arish on a visit with friends in the Gebeliya. We also discovered that the two tribes are very close, once even sharing their Zuara.


Though the Gebeliah came to Sinai as Christians, most quickly converted to Islam during the second Arabian surge through the Middle East, the Islamic surge; but reportedly there are still some Christians. Nomachi reports that in conversations he had with the people of this tribe, they considered themselves to be the only true Bedouin, which may account for some of the animosity felt towards them. Perhaps as a throwback to their Christian days and even older superstitions from Eastern Europe, some still believe that the Monks control that most precious of commodities in the Sinai, rain water. They think the Monks have a book written by Moses that has magical powers.

The Hyena features in several stories told by the Gebeliya. While Hyena flesh for most Bedouin is taboo, for the Gebeliya only the left side is forbidden. The right side can be eaten and its meat, boiled in a soup, is thought to provide a cure for exhaustion and rheumatism. From the monastic tradition comes the tale of John the Sabaite who cured a Hyena cub of blindness after its mother brought the ascetic a huge cabbage. He refused it, accusing her of stealing it from another man's garden and ordered her to return it which she then did.

The Bedouins have a status that equals, in many ways, that of native Americans. Traditionally they are said to live in close harmony with life in the desert, forbidding the cutting of trees. However, the littering by Bedouin children cured me of a too romantic view on this people. At any rate, the Bedouin people are very beautiful, with their clothes in a mixture of black and bright. Too bad the people we saw resisted being photographed. Bedouins are the original inhibitants of Sinai and they now have a special status under Egyptian law.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine was built over 1400 years ago by the Roman Emperor Justinian to protect the monks and hermits residing in the area. It is the oldest Christian monastery in continuous existence and belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church. The Monastery is located near the base of Mount Sinai where' it is said God spoke to Moses. The Monastery's name comes from the martyr Saint Catherine, who lived in the 3rd century AP, and whose relics were found at the summit of Mount Catherine (Gebel Catherine).

Saint Catherine's Monastery (http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2002/567/tr3.htm)

The Bedouin is aristocratic as well looking upon himself as the personified perfection of creation. To the Bedouin the Arabian nation is the noblest of all nations, purity of blood, way of life, and above all noble ancestry. He often traces his lineage back to the times of the prophet Mohammed and beyond.
He is open-minded and interested in what is going on in his close and far surroundings since this kind of knowledge has always been a vital tool of survival. At the same time he is very suspicious and alert keeping a low profile about his own personal background.

The women do most of the work, while the men socialize and make plans for the group. Some of the women's responsibilities include tending to the children, preparing meals, sewing, collecting and weaving animal hair, pitching, striking and loading the tents, gathering fuel for cooking and nurturing the elderly. Bedouin children stay with their mothers in the women's section of the tent until they are about seven years old. Older boys often help with the herds and tend to the needs of guests. The Bedouin groups are almost untouched by the gospel. Christian resources are available in their languages, but the Bedouin have proved to be resistant to Christianity.

I couldn't find photos of Gebeliya but I found pictures of Bedouins of various regions, none of them look especially European except maybe these 2 ladies:


They can be any mix of Arab, Negro, Mongoloid. One interesting thing I notice about Middle Easterners sometimes is that the young children aren't as neotenic, and sometimes have "old" looking faces.

Here's a good pic of a young Bedouin: http://pro.corbis.com/images/watermark/67/10069976/HU044419.jpg
A young man with plaits. His hair was spread with camel dung before being plaited. :sick

Girl from Lebanon

They don't like to be photographed.

Monday, November 3rd, 2003, 06:43 PM
Ladygoeth your notes/links on the Mountan Bedu were full of great detail.

There are other 'Mountain Bedouins' (known as the Jubail Bedu), sited in , surprise surprise, the town of Al Jubail (at the base of a large hill in Saudi Arabia, eastern Province). The hill is still there- with ancienttraces f a community at the top now hidden by a with a radio transmtter and helicopter site, all fenced off to discourage the innocent surveying of the historic hilltop area.
Interestingly there is also an interesting monastic connection at the base of the Jebel:
Jubail in Saudi Arabia has a Nestorian Christian Church from the 4th century (pre-dating the invention of Islam by around 350 years or so).

As it is "Illiberal, intolerant, unmulti-cultural', non-pluralistic Saudi Arabia, the Nestorian Church and monastic cell complx is surrounded by a two metre high security fence - to ensure that the Christian Heritrage of Arabia Felix is not recognised by welcoming any visitors. The fence also extends around 1 metre below ground to stop the Filipino expats digging their way in (as they have done for impromptu 'church gatherings') - the saudi Authorities mount armed patrols each Christmas to stop the 'infidel' gathering at the only Church in Saudi Arabia.!
The church of Archbishop Nestor is located a quarter kilometre behing the Khonaini Gas Station on the North South road from Dammam to 'up north' and Kuwait, Southern-most turning to Jubail. The Jubail Church was formerly on the coast(sea shell evidence in the sand around it) but since the past 1700 years, thesea(Arabian Gulf/Persian Gulf) has recede 3 kilometres - leaving thechuch inland.

The Jubail Church/monastic complex was discovered when some people were 'dune buggying' in 1986. and literallyfell through a sandcavity - thatturne out to be main building of the Church. Christian symbols, carved crosses have been vandalised/stolen since then, but photographic evidence and expat witness accounts remain.

Excavation of the site (in late 1980's) was crude and brutal - labourers with a back-hoe were left unsupervised. A Philippno contact described fragments of decoration, gold sheeting off uncovered wood and door fragments, being stolen and sold locally as scrap. The intrinsic andcultural value was destroyed.

Many local Jubail Bedu still exist as subsistence farmers around the desert area of the church. The Bedu have had trading links with their fishing port and with Iranian Shi-ites (such as the stronghold of Qatif , formerly a Portuguese colony is what is now Saudi Arabia), and with the Dilmun culture (of Bahrain a few miles down the coast.). The 'Al Buanain ' tribe is still a powerful local Bedu clan in the Jubail area. The saudis bombed and attacked 'their town' of Qatif at the time ofthe Fall of the Shah of Persia - the Shi-ite Saudi's in eastern Province around Qatif revolted in favour of the Ayatollah - the revolt was brutally crushed and the historic walls of Qatif razed.

An overland east west pre-historic trackway route just north of Jubail is shown on some historic maps of thearea, still leading across the peninsular to Al Jawf (Near Jordan border) a former Roman military colony - part of a former Frankincense trading route.

The Saudi's cannot stop the hand of Allah intervening with the Church though, and drifting sand dunes often swamp andcoverparts of their wire mesh fence - allowing interested visitors to run the risk of patrols and explore the Church network and its monastic cells.

An extension of the North South link to 'Madinat Al Jubail Al Sinaiyah' (Modern Jubail City) caused a lot of excavated spoil very very near the church to be thrown up - found to be rich in bronze artefacts, ancient glass, other historic fragments - rescue archeaology.

The mountain Bedu of Al Jubail have become part of modern industrial society
in a 400 square kilometre industrial complex known as Jubail Industrial city yet their historic traces and (in-bred) tribal clans still remain in the same area.

Are there mountain Bedu in other regions? :|


Tuesday, November 4th, 2003, 07:59 AM
People are always searching for injustices to cry about, it's humanity's new hobby. ;)

Of all the churches all over the world one can visit, why care about some rundown, looted and vandalized one out in the desert? Maybe it will be used as justification for another American-led Crusade. I can see it now: "The Saudis are hiding WMD and uranium bought from Africa *cough* in this church, we need to liberate the Saudi Christians, all 100 of them."

Not everyone is going to think like us in the West, shouldn't letting people be Islamic fundamentalists be part of "appreciating the diversity of our global community" (or whatever similar BS)? :D

Some centuries ago in Europe people were tortured and executed for suspicion of not being Christian or even for belief in an unapproved sect of Christianity. Religious tolerance is a pretty new thing in the world. NS Germany outlawed all political opposition, and since the Saudi government is ruled by (their interpretation of) shari`ah law, they have outlawed all religious opposition. It seems unfair and in a lot of ways it is, but it does make sense.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2003, 05:00 PM
Butthe Saudi's ARE hiding WMD, developing WMD, and have a stock of the same.

i)The Hiding Places:
Al Sulayyil (A Missile Base, location 20°43'07"N 45°35'01"E.)

www.intellnet.org/media/ ?type=author&value=Space%20Imaging - 21k
The Chinese technicians and long-range missiles have beensitting at Al-Sulayyil for a year anda half now -waiting forthe 'green light' to send them'west'

ii)The Development facilities:
Nuclear Research labs King fahad University of Petroleum and Minerals Dhahran.

King Fahad Military City.

Jeddah University.(Coincidentally Al Qaeda's favourite university recruiting ground)

In return for funding the Paki's Nuclear Bomb, the Saudis have been given a few Nukes by return.Currently these are at 'Al Jawf' and Hafar-Al-batin' (near to Jordan, and about 90 miles from Israel(from Al Jawf). The paki's Nukes actually do go bang - just thetype of cargo to pack in a "saudia" regular cargo flight to New York with an Islamic pilot.

Yep, lets go ahead and star a crusade to Nuke the 'sand-jockeys' before they target the west (just as long as I have time to cross the Al Khobar causeway to reach my penthouse suite in Bahrain) - because just as they funded and provided the 'material' for Sept 11th - you can just count on a few Saudi Nukes "accidentally" falling into the hands of a few well-connected US-hating tribal fundamentalists heading your way....Put your tin hat on and brace yourself for some artificially-induced warm weather (23,000 deg C and slightly cloudy) when the Saudis decide to test their new skills in your part of the wicked infidel 'West'. :-O

Wednesday, November 5th, 2003, 08:21 AM
I live in the Arab capital of America, so if anything is going down it's not going to go down here. Jihad boyz might blow themselves up, but they aren't going to kill their families. ;)

There's a series of articles in the newspaper (http://www.detnews.com/specialreports/2003/arab/index.htm) now about prejudice against Arabs and Muslims. I witnessed only a few incidents in the past when I was in school, they introduce special halal meals and a lot of the non-Muslim wiseguys would oink like a :pig in the lunch line, hehe. And then some jewish boy named David started quoting Salman Rushdie to piss off the Muslims in the science class and 3 Iranian guys were going to jump him. It was always stuff between the guys. :|

These people feel they can't fit in because people around here think of "American" as whites and blacks. But compared with other groups Arabs are not causing problem, and I think whites who show anti-Arab, anti-Muslim sentiment are using them as scapegoat to cover their real anger toward blacks because it's patriotic / kosher to hate Arabs. Arabs actually do very well for themselves here, better than the average native-born white because the "outsider" label has made their community stronger and self-reliant. They help each other out whereas here in suburbs whites are very antisocial and no one even speaks to their neighbors! Whites and other races need the same self-reliance and sense of community.

Thursday, November 6th, 2003, 01:10 AM
I live in the Arab capital of America, so if anything is going down it's not going to go down here. Jihad boyz might blow themselves up, but they aren't going to kill their families. ;)

That got me to thinking... Why would Israel worry about its safety from Muslim countries with nuclear weapons? Israel has millions of muslim human shields.

However, if only Israel could remove the nuclear threat, then Israel wouldn't need those human shields. Then the demographic time bomb of muslim fecundity could be countered by re-settling Pals into Jordan or elsewhere, an idea favored by the majority of Israelis.

Thursday, November 6th, 2003, 06:51 PM
Louky wrote "That got me to thinking... Why would Israel worry about its safety from Muslim countries with nuclear weapons? Israel has millions of muslim human shields. "

For those of us who read write speak arabic and freely travel the Arab world, I can assure you that despite the crocodile tears and public wringing of hands, the Arab states hate each other as much as they hate their semitic kinfolk in Israel. The Palestinians are similarly hated with a vengeance by all the other Arab states; which is why not a single palestinian who has lived in any other arab country /been born in any other arab country/worked for any other arab state / or even married an arab form any other state has ever been awarded any other Arab nationality!.

There are fourth and fifth generation palestinians in Saudi Arabia(for example) whose forebears have lived in 'Saudi' before the modern state of Israel was even invented - yet those current generation Palestinians many of whom have been born and lived in Arab countries all their lives, can never ever dream of getting a passport or right to adopt the nationality (of any arab state).

This is why the Israelis wont put their own butt on the line in the naive belief that palestinians are somehow an 'Human Shield' - the mutual tribal hatreds between all semitic peoples(arabs and Jews) has already lasted several thousands of years, thus the modern concept of an 'Human Shield' is irrelevant

Curiously the decrepit country known as Britain is the only 'State' on this planet that has no value on its passport and places no value on its nationality; and any being on the planet can walk into Britain , say the word 'asylum' and be given 'full UK nationality' within a few days. One reason why 7 million Muslims(12% ofthe UK population) are now allegedly 'British'.

Thursday, November 6th, 2003, 07:24 PM
This is why the Israelis wont put their own butt on the line in the naive belief that palestinians are somehow an 'Human Shield' - the mutual tribal hatreds between all semitic peoples(arabs and Jews) has already lasted several thousands of years, thus the modern concept of an 'Human Shield' is irrelevant

Very interesting perspective. I didn't understand this paragraph though. Are you saying the Israelis DO look upon the Palestinians as human shields?

Saturday, November 8th, 2003, 05:20 PM

(Because despite arabic 'Public Relations', the 'Arab Press' and lots of cheap talk to the contrary, the rest of the arab world regards the palestinians as being just as expendable as the Israelis). :|

Saturday, November 8th, 2003, 06:25 PM

I noticed some white-looking Palestinians while watching the news. Maybe other Arabs regard them as an inferior race, the same way Americans look at the as French easily conquered people quick to surrender.

Saturday, November 8th, 2003, 07:33 PM
Some do look white-ish from a distance but as semitic people the palestinians have more in commonwith their tribal Jewish neighbours, than Europeans.

Suicide bombers (such as the arabic-billybob figure in yr.website link) create considerable negative environmental externalities - not least from the vapourised 'meat paste' of a rapidly deteriorating organic nature that has to be swept up afterwards after their selfish decision to liquefy themselves in public. The Syndicated news footage(late last year) of the head of a suicide bomber thatlanded on a hotel window ledge, frankly caused mixed feelings of shock/horror from thenews TV filn crew, but also wry amusement ad laughter to those with a black sense of humour. :lol

Without wishing to name drop I was talking to a certain visiting UK Royal figure (and fellow Arabist/former pupil of Thesiger and Laurens van der Post) at HE the Ambassador's residence in Muscat Oman yesterday regarding the 'Gebeliya Bedouin'. P.Charles says he will tap into your listed web references for his further enlightenment. :wine