Bedaria / Bederia

Bedaria is an Arab tribe in Sudan. It is part of the Ja'alin tribe and constitutes a large portion of Sudanese Arabs. They speak Sudanese Arabic and are predominantly Sunni Muslims.

The Bederia are one of the numerous Baggara tribes of northern Sudan. The Baggara, also known as Shuwa Arabs, are a nomadic Bedouin people inhabiting Africa between Lake Chad and the Nile. They are cattle-herding Arabs, although sometimes mixed with indigenous tribes.

Bedaria people



The Bedaria are part of the Ja'alin tribe, who trace their lineage to Abbas, uncle of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. They were at one time subject to the Funj kings, but their position was in a measure independent. At the Egyptian invasion in 1820, the Ja'alin were the most powerful of Arab tribes in the Nile valley. They submitted at first, but in 1822 rebelled and massacred the Egyptian garrison at Shendi with the Mek Nimir, a Ja'ali leader burning Ismail, Muhammad Ali Pasha's son and his cortege at a banquet. The revolt was mercilessly suppressed, and the Ja'alin were thence forward looked on with suspicion. They were almost the first of the northern tribes to join the mahdi in 1884, and it was their position to the north of Khartoum which made communication with General Gordon so difficult. The Ja'alin are now a semi-nomad agricultural people. In common with much of the rest of the Arab world, the gradual process of Arabization in Sudan led to the predominance of the Arabic language and aspects of Arab culture, The population of Sudan includes various tribes who are ethnically Arab, such as the Shaigya, Ja'alin, Shukria, Juhaynah. Burckhardt noted that the Ja'alin of the Eastern Desert are almost indistinguishable from the Bedouin of eastern Arabia.


Sudanese Arabic

It was noted in the late 19th century that the Arabic spoken in Sudan still largely maintained grammatical and dialectical features similar to that introduced from the Arabian Peninsula in the 12th century, and as a result Sudanese Arabic is a form of "pure but archaic Arabic". This, among other features, serves to distinguish the Arabic spoken in Sudan from that of its neighbor, Egypt.



Some Bedaria still farm and raise livestock along the banks of The Nile river and in Western Sudan, but today they more commonly consist of the bulk of the Sudanese urban population, forming a large part of the merchant class. Although many have moved to cities, such as the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, they still maintain their tribal identity and solidarity. Famous for maintaining ties with their homeland, they keep in contact with their original home and return for frequent visits, especially for marriages, funerals and Muslim festivals.


Bedaria as part of Baggara group

Most of the Baggara are herdsmen. Their herds are comprised primarily of cattle, although they do raise a few sheep and goats. Camels are kept for riding and as pack animals.

The nomadic Baggara live in camp units called furgan. Members of the furgan generally belong to one or more family line. The Baggara live in simple, dome-shaped tents, which are portable structures that can be easily packed and moved with the herds. The tents are built by placing saplings into holes in the ground, then bending them over and tying them at the top. Smaller branches are tied into the frame, and then covered with thatch or canvas mats. The tents are arranged in a circle, into which the cattle are brought for the night.

Although most Baggara tribes are nomadic, there are some that live in farming communities or towns. Their houses are built of mud bricks and have thatched roofs. Corrals for the young animals are built inside the compounds. Grazing land is usually shared, but farm land is owned individually.

The Baggara are somewhat unusual in that the women work to provide the income needed to maintain the households. They earn cash by milking the cows and selling the milk or milk products. Their earnings are either kept or spent on household items. A married woman owns the tent as well as all of its housekeeping contents. The men are primarily involved with caring for the herds. They also plant and harvest the crops.

Baggara marriages are often polygamous. If a man has two wives, one may live in a pastoral camp, while the other lives in a farming village.

Cross cousin marriages are preferred. A "bride price" is provided by the future husband and his near relatives. Part of this money is used to purchase household items, while some of it is used to buy food for the marriage celebration that takes place in the bride's camp. After the wedding, the newlyweds live near the bride's parents. Later, they move to a place chosen by the husband. On this occasion, the groom's family provides another feast.

Baggara society is patrilineal, which means that the line of descent is traced through the males. Traditionally each camp is headed by a male leader called shaykh. Although this position is generally inherited, all of the adult male members of a camp must agree on the man who is to fill the position. The shaykh does not rule the camp, but rather acts as the spokesperson for the decision-making males of the camp. However, he may also have a considerable amount of influence, depending on his wisdom and economic status.



The Baggara tribes are virtually all Muslim. Eight of the groups are Sunnis, while the others belong to the Malikite sect. All of them faithfully observe the "five pillars of Islam." Many of the men and some of the women are able to make pilgrimages to Mecca.

The Baggara hold various religious celebrations and also place importance on many life stage transitions.