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New and old ways of living go hand in hand in Arabian desert

Several tribes still lead nomadic lives in the outskirts of Rub Al Khali that covers about a third of the Arabian Peninsula.

Men in desert
Image Credit: Supplied
Many youngsters are keen to take advantage of the educationalopportunities offered by the Saudi education ministry.
Gulf News

Riyadh: The lives of Bedouin tribes in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have witnessed tremendous changes in recent years.

Their simple though tough lives, in extreme situations in remote desert regions, have in the past evoked the avid interest of writers, thinkers and travellers, especially those from the West.

They undertook adventurous and dangerous trips to the innermost regions of the Rub Al Khali desert, which is one of the most extreme areas in the world.

High-tech revolution

Several tribes still lead nomadic lives in the outskirts of Rub Al Khali that covers about a third of the Arabian Peninsula. There are several rich oil fields of Saudi Arabia located in this desert.

There is little vegetation and animal life in these regions. Still, in between there are pockets allowing some vegetation and animal life. The high-tech revolution that brought about an incredible transformation of human life in the modern world is not alien to the nomadic tribes living in these remote desert regions.

A recent trip by Gulf News to one such pocket in the northeast region of Hail uncovered this surprising transformation. It is amazing to see that many Bedouin have started tasting the fruit of the IT revolution in the midst of leading their traditional, nomadic lives.

During the visit to a pocket of the Bedouin tribe of Shammar, I encountered a young man called Ahmad Al Shammari. He was seen using a laptop while herding camels and sheep. He was letting his herd graze while sitting in his small Hilux pick-up vehicle, browsing the internet.

Replying to queries from Gulf News, he said: "I am a secondary school student. I attend school in the morning. In the afternoon, I go out to graze the herd of about 55 head of camels and 120 head of sheep. These are our only wealth upon which we depend on for our livelihood."

"Are you rich then?"

He replied with a laugh. "In the true sense of the word, I belong to an average middle income Bedouin family. What I inherited from my father is sufficient to bring up my family," he said while unveiling his ambition to secure a government job after completing his education, especially his command over the English language.

Ahmad is representative of the new Bedouin generation, which is keen to take advantage of the elaborate arrangements made by the Saudi education ministry to provide all possible educational and training facilities for them in several desert regions across the kingdom.

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