What is a Nomad?
You may think of a nomad as someone who is constantly wandering and never settling in one place. While it is true nomads do not ‘settle down’, did you know they can still play an important part of the local cultures they inhabit? They may also travel in cycles, sometimes returning to previous areas in which they once resided.
Historically, nomads were often hunter-gatherers (those who hunted and used local plants to sustain their lifestyle), peripatetic (nomads who shared a craft or trade), or pastoral (those who raised herds and moved to avoid using all of the resources in one area).
Pastoral Nomad Camp
Nomads and Early Civilization
Before around 1500 CE (common era) in the first areas of civilization (in modern day Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey), there were basically two ways of life: nomadic and settled. Nomads moved around to find resources while settled farmers stayed in one place to form a community (eventually leading to the birth of cities).
Nomadic cultures usually developed because of environmental conditions. For example, people who lived in an area with land that wasn’t fertile would continue moving to find fertile land. As the population grew, many people would continue moving to areas with better resources.
Nomad as an attraction:
Migration is one of the most ancient human ways of life that its remaining up to now is the most attractive ways of livelihood. This particular way of life has caused that the nomads are named “the most spectacular attraction in the age of technology”.
The nomads has preserved their customs in incredible and attractive ways during centuries and years. And this originality has become an attraction for tourism. Some of the most important attractions of nomads, are like, Kind of nomad’s house, their lifestyle, language, music, local foods, handicraft, dance, local clothing with special wedding ceremony and local celebrations.
Iran is one of the oldest regions of the world for agriculture and sedentary living; however, its ecological, political, and economic characteristics have also created the possibility for nomadic ways of life. The nomadic and sedentary, as old as one another, are complimentary.
The Zagros range which covers almost one third of the country is the largest mountainous agriculture and livestock breeding region in the Middle East. The mountains, spread from the north west to the south east of Iran, are more than one thousand kilometers long, two hundred kilometers wide, and between one thousand and 4,435 meters high. They provide vast pastures and forests of walnuts, wild almonds, terebinth nuts, and wild pistachios. In the southern Zagros area, where the mountains are dens and hard winters make permanent residence impossible, people have opted for a migratory life style, living in tent and breeding livestock.
Furthermore, Iran’s geopolitical situation and invasions from the people of the Central Asia in search of pasture and fertile land have been other factors that have throughout the history caused the modes of life to alternate between sedentary and migratory life styles.
The Qahqa’i tribe, a Turkish-speaking tribe of the fars province, is one of the oldest of the region.
Currently six tribes, Darreh Shouri, Kashkuli-e Bozorg, Kashkuli-e Kuchak, Farsi Madan, Amaleh, and Shesh Boluki, bringing the other smaller sub-tribes under their wings, make up the main body of the Qashqa’I. Each tribe is known for some specific characteristic: The Kashkulis for their Bibi Baf carpets; the Darreh Shuris for their beautiful horses and their fast riders; the Shesh Bolukis for their wealth; the Farsi Madans for their humor and hospitality, and the Galeh Zans for their brave men and outlaws.
Today in Qashqa’I is the second largest migratory tribe of Iran and is considered one of the wealthy ones. The population of the migratory sector of the Qashqa’I tribe, according to a 2008 statistics, is 30,283 families. The statistics do not include those who have, for political and economic reasons, wars, exiles, draughts, and epidemics, settled down in villages along the Qashqa’i migratory routes, and also large groups who have settled in Shiraz, the capital of the Fars province.
The Qashqa’I nomads live in the western parts of the Fars province with an area of some 40,000 square kilometers. Their summer and winter camps are dispersed from the south of Isfahan province to areas close to the Persain Gulf coast between Bandar Abbas and Genaveh. Their summer camps are located south west of Isfahan province, east of Chahar Mahal-e Bakhtiari, Kohgilouye va Boyer Ahmad, Abadeh, Ardekan, Eqlid, semirom, Ghomshe (Shahr Reza). Their winter camps are located south west of Fars and some eastern parts of Ghir and Karzin and Kazeroun. The two farthest locations for their summer and winter camps is hundreds of kilometers apart from one another. Some Qashqa,I tribes sometimes travel around eight hundred kilometers in each seasonal migration, in a time span of a little bit more than two months.
The socio-political structure of most tribal societies in Iran is based on social strata, and the Qashqa’I is made up of five: The Khans are the highest stratum, the leader. Then there are the Calantars, the Kadkhodas, the public, and with a great gap from the other groups the Changis : Other smaller strata include those of the black slaves, cameleers, storytellers,etc.
The higher body of the tribe is in charge of making decisions about the distribution of the natural resources including the land, pastures, water, etc. among their people, either migrating or having settled down. In return for their services, they receive part of what the tribe produces.
The decision about the time of migration was once made by the Qashqa’I Khans consulting with the Calantars and the Kadkhodas, and the decision would then be announced to the Rish Sefids (the whitebeards) in charge of each Bonkou (a group of several households). Today the decision is made by the Rishsefids themselves through consultation with the households in their charge.
The migration is considered the main ritual of the nomadic life, significant to its survival; and the day the tribe sets off for migration is filled with excitement and enthusiasm. The tribe spends some time collecting the tents and packing. Some stuff including the beds, the tents, carpet wearing equipment, kitchenware, farming tools, churns, food, the poultry, lambs, and the newly born kids are carried by the animals. On the first day of the trip, only a short distance is covered, to make sure that nothing or no one is left usually can cover fifteen kilometers per day. Animals are led ahead of the group to be able to graze around.
The smallest unit of a nomadic society is the tent. Each tent encompasses a family. No man can live in the tribe without having a wife. The family, a traditional tribal unit, works as well as a socio-economic cooperation and the basic production-consumption and political unit of the tribe. Women in the Qashqa’I tribe enjoy a high status; higher than the women from the villages and other tribes, and this is perhaps a result of the leaders and other strata of the tribe strongly believing in monogamy, despite the Islamic law allowing the men to have several wives.
The marriage ceremony is the second most important ritual for the Qashqa’I people after the migration. Forming one’s own family is considered a person’s initiation into the migratory society. It’s only after marriage that the young men of the tribe gain economic independence and become formal members of the trib. Marriage among the Qashqa,I is based on some strict rules: members of each stratum can only marry with their own people; the leaders with leaders, the Calantars with Calantars, the public with the public, and the lower strata such as musicians and black smiths only with their owns. However, things have started to change…
Even though the nomadic tribal ways have transformed throughout the years, the Qashqa’I is still
alive. It’s not a matter of migration or settling down, fighting the central governments or other tribes to survive, or choosing to use some modern facilities. It’s because they are still aware of their identity; they have a unique love for the tribe, for their land, and the nature. It’s because they hold on to their songs, their dances, their handicrafts, and their culture traditions. It’s because they have kept alive the spirit of being a Qashqa’i.
Arshi, ziba(2011), the qashqai
Instructor: Elam Miller, Jessica, What Are Nomads, http://study.com