The Howeitat or Howaytat (Arabic: الحويطات) are a large tribal confederation of Transjordan, an area in present-day Jordan, Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia. The Howeitat have several branches, notably the Ibn Jazi, the Abu Tayi, the Anjaddat, and the Sulaymanniyin, in addition to a number of associated tribes.
Background, history and lifestyle
The Howeitat are unusual in claiming descent from a single ancestor, an Egyptian named Huwayt. However, their presence in the area may date from the 18th century, when tribes of the northern Arabian desert were being pushed northwards by expansion of the Wahhabite-associated bedouin of central Arabia; by the late 18th century the Howeitat were already laying claim to areas around Aqaba and northwards; they also laid claim to land in Egypt. They developed into a partly settled tribe, combining farming in the fertile areas of Jabal Shara with pastoralism, but early in the 20th century were rendered more or less nomadic by the activities of two rival shaikhs, Abtan ibn Jazi and Auda abu Tayi, who concentrated on raiding, collection of tribute and camel-herding.
The abu Tayi subclan of the tribe were supporters of the Hashemite cause during the Arab Revolt, in which they formed an important part of Faisal's forces; Auda abu Tayi was able to muster a force of Bedouin tribesmen willing to march on Aqaba under the banner of Prince Feisal bin Hussein. The ibn Jazi subclan of the tribe remained loyal to the Ottoman Empire: their leader Hamad ibn Jazi was decorated by the empire in early 1917. In later years the Howeitat returned to farming; they were also prominent in the Arab Legion, the ibn Jazi section becoming the most powerful component in the federation. The Howeitat still have possession of large areas of land around Wadi Rum and stretching into Saudi Arabia; they have historically been a significant source of manpower for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Royal Jordanian Land Force.
The Howeitat are often mentioned in Richard Francis Burton's travelogue The Land of Midian, in which he gives the following account of their origin:
According to their own oral genealogists, the first forefather was a lad called ‘Alayán, who, travelling in company with certain Shurafá ("descendants of the Apostle"), and ergò held by his descendants to have been also a Sherif, fell sick on the way. At El-‘Akabah he was taken in charge by ‘Atíyyah, Shaykh of the then powerful Ma’ázah tribe, who owned the land upon which the fort stands. A "clerk," able to read and to write, he served his adopted father by superintending the accounts of stores and provisions supplied to the Hajj. The Arabs, who before that time embezzled at discretion, called him El–Huwayti’ ("the Man of the Little Wall") because his learning was a fence against their frauds. He was sent for by his Egyptian friends; these, however, were satisfied by a false report of his death: he married his benefactor’s daughter; he became Shaykh after the demise of his father-inlaw; he drove the Ma’ázah from El-‘Akabah, and he left four sons, the progenitors and eponymi of the Midianite Huwaytát. Their names are ‘Alwán, ‘Imrán, Suway’id, and Sa’id; and the list of nineteen tribes, which I gave in The Gold–Mines of Midian, is confined to the descendants of the third brother.
- Harris, G. Jordan: its people, its society, its culture, HRAF, 1958, p.56
- Salibi, K. The Modern History of Jordan, Tauris, 1998, ISBN 1-86064-331-0, pp.26-27
- Alon, Y. and Eilon, J. The Making of Jordan: Tribes, Colonialism and the Modern State, Tauris, 2007, ISBN 1-84511-138-9, p.162
- Teitelbaum, J. (2001) The Rise and Fall of the Hashimite Kingdom of Arabia, Hurst, p.92
- Burton, R. The Land of Midian, Chapter 5.
- Lawrence, T.E. (1935). Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Garden City: Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc. pp. 225, 229, 233.
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