|Regions with significant populations|
|Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, UAE, Oman, Jordan, Sudan, Eritrea|
|Hejazi Bedouin Arabic|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Rashaida, Rashaayda or Bani Rashid (Arabic: بني رشيد) is a tribe of ethnic Bedouin Arabs descending from Hawazin native to the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia. In Arabic.They currently inhabit Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Sudan and Libya. In 1846, many Rashaida migrated from the Hejaz region in present-day Saudi Arabia into what is now Sudan, Kuwait, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al-Quwain and United Arab Emirates after tribal warfare had broken out in their homeland. Large numbers of Bani Rasheed are also found on the Arabian Peninsula. The Bani Rasheed are descendants of the Banu Abs tribe.
Across the different countries they inhabit, the Rashaida keep their traditional dress, culture, customs, camel breeds and practice of Sunni Islam. The racing camel breeds of the Rashaida tribe are prized all over Sudan and the Arabian Peninsula and fetch very high prices.
In Eritrea, Rashaida people are commonly confused with Adeni Arabs, a small group of about 18,000 ethnic Arabs, who tend to cohabit similar regions as the Rashaida people. Although Adeni Arabs originally hail from Yemen and tend to live in a more geographically concentrated area of Eritrea, mainly in the port city of Massawa, Rashaida people originally hail from the northern region of Saudi Arabia and tend live all along the Sinai in places as far north as Egypt. The Rashaida are also the smallest ethnic group currently present in Eritrea.
The most important part of the wardrobe for the women is their veil; which they begin wearing around the age of five.
The women explain their observance of the veil in terms of beauty, not the Islamic religion. "We feel you are more beautiful when you wear a veil," Mrs. Hamida said. "When we are 5 years old we ask our mothers if we can be veiled so we can be like them."
These veils cover their whole face apart from their eyes and are finely embroidered with metallic silver thread, beads and sometimes seed pearls. These veils cover their faces at all times, even when they eat unless there is no male present except for their husband as no other male will ever see their face. Unlike other a number of Arab/Muslim cultures, the women are able to keep part of their hair uncovered. The Rashaida women are also said to be typically adorned in silver jewellery which the women craft themselves and often sell at local markets. The rest of their outfits are also said to be elaborate with long skirts and bright colours; being particularly famous for their black-and-red geometrically patterned dresses. When looking at the hemming of the Rashaida women’s dresses, it is clear to see the influences of their Arabian ancestry through the continued use of bold appliqué patterns. When they first migrated to Eritrea, they were said to be wearing these traditional red ankle-length skirts that were adorned with bright yellow and green patterns.
Due to the inability of Rashaidi men and women to freely interact in everyday life, marriages are most often arranged by the families. If the groom accepts the marriage, he must pay a dowry which is usually in the form of cash and camels. A woman can only take one husband, but a man may have multiple wives.
The traditional wedding of the Rashaida group involves a seven-day event involving a number of festivities like drumming, dancing and camel racing. During the events on the first six days, the bride is unable to see anyone during the daylight except for mother, sisters and her father’s other wives. On the seventh day, the bride joins her husband in daylight for the festivities, and they begin their public life as husband and wife. During this period, an important custom for the Rashaida people is ensuring that the bride is concealed in elaborate veils and wedding masks during the week of festivities. During the first six days she wears the ‘mangheb’, the young girl’s veil. On the seventh day, she wears a specific ‘burqa’ which is given to her by her mother and decorated in metallic thread and pendants that are gifted to her from her husband. She will continue to wear this wedding burqa for a year after the wedding. She is only able to unveil herself outside the presence of her family on the seventh night, when she is married to her husband; this is when he sees her uncovered for the first time.
During the festivities, men commonly wear a cotton tunic with an embroidered waistcoast and a turban. An important token during the wedding, is the groom’s ceremonial sword which he uses during the festive dances and is gifted to him by his parents.
The Rashaida people wish to maintain a level of ethnic purity within their community. It is rare to see interracial marrying as they are discouraged from marrying outside of the group to prevent their offspring being a mix with other races. but it is very common to see them mixing with the highlanders.
Within the Rashaida group, there is said to be two different ‘races’. Those that have lighter skin are referred to as “Red” while the freed slaves who were raised by the Rashaida are referred to as the “Black”, with the term ‘muwalladin’ or ‘Muwallad’ also often being used to label them. There are certain rules regarding the ability of these two groups to intermarry. A male that is considered “Red” is able to marry a “Black” Rashaidi as their offspring will be considered “Red”, while a “Black” male is unable to marry a “Red” Rashaidi. the mixed highlanders don't look different at all with other Rashaida group so they are not considered "Muwallad" at all.
Most Arab groups have very distinct hospitality practices that revolve around the value of being generous, offering their home to both strangers and friends alike. It is an important factor in social relations as it is part of the foundation for a good reputation. These Arab hospitality practices can also be seen in the traditional practices of the Rashaida people. When guests are entertained in their homes, they are greeted, fed and entertained according to a set of established rules. For example, there cannot be an offering of hospitality within the household unless its senior woman is present.
When the Rashaida host their guests, they treat it as a ritual, and host it in their tents that are the designated spaces for significant ritual events such as child-birth and marriage. These tents, along with the ones they live in, are mostly made from goatskin or of animal hair from their camel herds but can also be made from sheep or goat hair. As this is treated as a ritual, there is a particular order of activities that take place. This sequence is as follows:
- The guests are greeted
- They are served beverages in the order of water, then tea and then coffee.
- An animal is killed for the meal, and the knife is presented to the guests
- A broth is cooked from the animal and served to the guests
- The meat itself is served
- Cooked grain is then served to the guests
- Words of gratitude are given and the guests depart
Rashaida in Sudan
During the middle of the 19th century, this group of ethnic people migrated to Sudan from the west coast of Arabia, predominantly Saudi Arabia, and settled in the eastern part of the nation. The total number of Rashaida living in Sudan is unclear but it is estimated to be around forty thousand people. From the early 2000s, many Rashaida people have become more or less settled in the Lower Atbara area of the region. Here, they mostly live in tents or newly constructed huts or adobe houses.
The Rashaida people’s relationships with other ethnic groups in the region are mostly due to the practices they have adopted since they migrated to the country. They adopted the pastoral production and agriculture methods also practiced by other peoples in the area; such as the Hadendoa. These tribes then retaliated against the new competition by violently opposing the expansion of the Rashaida into the coastal areas, forcing many of them to settle further inland. The arid conditions of these areas then led to them raising camels rather than cattle.
Living as Pastoralists
Camel breeding is one of the primary sources of work for the Rashaida people, with the group often living a fully-nomadic life as pastoralists. Within the region of Eastern Sudan, in which the Rashaida are predominantly found, pastoralism is a leading way of life for tribes. The Rashaida people utilise their camel herds for multiple purposes. Camel milk is extremely important for the Rashaida people as it is a fundamental source of their vitamins and proteins, making it their primary focus for herding. However, they also produce camels for meat to sell to the Egyptians and for racing in which they sell to the Gulf states.
In these regions there are various obstacles such as droughts and widespread famine, meaning that the pastoral groups have had to create various strategies to deal with the complexity of the eco-system. The Rashaida follow a seasonal pattern of migration, with several seasons and consequent living patterns occurring throughout the year. Beginning in mid-July they begin a pattern of migration with their camel herd to follow the rain showers. From the beginning of August to the end of September, there is less movement, and they leave their camels to graze near their campsites, turning their focus to their livestock and agriculture practices. The next season, ‘Ad Darat’ has more of a focus on finding pasture for the livestock as conditions start to get drier. Milk supplies also start to dwindle, so there is a need to harvest grain crops. The final season is the dry season, in which migration stops and they set up camps near reliable sources of water.
Social and Political Issues
The Rashaida people have become entwined in several controversies with other groups in the region, governments, and even the international community. For example, since they have arrived in Sudan, they have been involved in new forms of economic activity besides pastoralism which has included illegal activity. This has involved actions such as joining rebel groups, participating in the slave trade, and buying/selling weapons. Along with this, it has become known that groups within the Rashaida people are involved in various acts of violence as well as human rights violations.
Rashaida Free Lions
In Sudan, there is an active armed rebel group within the Rashaida tribe called the Rashaida Free Lions. It was created as a response to the neglect that the group faces by government policy implemented in the region. For example, the leaders of the Rashaida claimed that they were paying levies on their industry but not receiving any services from the government in return. Other ethnic groups also suffered from similar circumstances, with the whole region demonstrating a complete lack of development initiatives. In response, the group became a part of what was known as the Eastern Front; a political alliance between rebel groups in the region. This coalition was formed to create less of a focus on ethnicities and rather unite together to challenge the governmental neglect that the region was being faced with. This group operated out of three separate camps along the border with Eritrea. They have operations that involve activities such as stealing cars and weapons from the army.
Human and Weapon Smuggling
Eritrea is a nation with a one-party system which has been known for its lack of protection of civil freedoms with a number of human rights violations being committed by the government. It is also one of the least developed countries in the world, making the living conditions poor. Due to these circumstances, many Eritreans flee the country and consequently seek asylum in east Sudan, or use it as a passage to other countries. East Sudan itself hosts around 100,000 refugees. Consequently, this high influx of refugees has led to criminal activity along the Eritrean-Sudanese border that involves the abduction and extortion of these refugees. They have been abducted when entering Sudan and then sold onto criminal gangs towards Egypt. This issue has been recognised to involve the Rashaida people, with a small group being a part of this chain of human trafficking across the Sudanese and Eritrean border. They have been deeply involved in the chain, with the Rashaida tribesman being responsible for ransoming, torturing and killing a large number of the Eritrean refugees. They also use this channel to smuggle weaponry, with the passengers being used to conceal the illegal weapons. Sudan serves as a transit state for the smuggling of weaponry to the Gaza strip. Smuggling gangs, with a large majority from the Rashaida tribe, are responsible for moving the illegal cargo to the Egyptian border. These patterns of weaponry trading have been long-standing within the group. In past centuries, the Rashaida have been documented for buying illegal weapons from countries such as Egypt, Eritrea, Saudia Arabia and Yemen and then mostly likely trading these weapons for slaves, tobacco and camels.
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