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About the Tribe
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, their name is said to mean 'refugee'. 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.
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.
Importance of Animal Products
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.
Importance of Plants
Cooked grain is then served to the guests