The development of the oil resource in the Middle East has irretrievably altered the life of the Bedouin tribes in that region. Although they continue to exist, in many instances they have been pressured by the government to alter their long history of wandering in order to settle down in towns and villages. They have been affected by development in many different areas of life. The intent in the following pages is to explore the world of the Bedouin during earlier times by looking at the Rwala and Mutair tribes and comparing their ways to each other.
According to William Lancaster (1981), the Rwala are the largest tribe of the Aneze confederation and probably the largest tribe in the northern Arabian desert. He estimated that they comprised somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 people, all acknowledging a single emir. When he studied them, they were resident in Saudi Arabia, having been expelled from Syria. They were divided into five tribal sections: the Murath, the Doghman, the Ga'Adza'a, the Frejje, and the Kwatzbe and were primarily camelherding people before 1958.
The Mutair are another major Bedouin tribe, known as one of the more important, and wealthiest of the tribes in the region. According to Dickson, they included about 10,000 tents, which, using Lancaster's (1981) method of counting five people per tent, would give a total population of approximately 50,000. This, however, might be on the short side.
The Mutair tribe, which included both the Ilwa and Wasil tribal section, was primarily located in northeastern Arabia. It, too, was part of the larger Aneze confederation. Its boundaries included the Iraq Neutral Zone on the north, the Shaqq depression on the east, the towns of Zilfi and Majma's on the south, and the towns of Twal al Dhafir and Thamani on the west. Dickson (1951) noted that its chief group of wells included such locales as Wabra, Qaiyah, Dijani, and Jariya Sifla, several of them the prop...