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Bedouin Place Names in the Eastern Desert of Egypt

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This paper analyses Ma'aza Bedouin toponymy in the northern half of Egypt's Eastern Desert. Ma'aza people started naming places as they began immigrating from northwest Arabia about 250 years ago. The main place objects are valleys, mountains, water sources, trees and tracks. These are named after individuals and groups, historic events, perennial plants, animals and their behaviour, material culture and environmental perceptions. Place naming helps assert the people's claim to this land. The named cultural landscape is a kind of autobiography that continues to be written and is perpetuated only orally. For nomadic pastoralists, place names help to reduce risk in a challenging environment and to conserve natural resources, especially woody trees that sustain livestock during drought. Sedentarisation is threatening this rich body of oral tradition.
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Keywords: Bedouin; Eastern Desert; Egypt; geography; place names; toponymy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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