Bedouins and the Conflict Over the Caravan Routes: Rethinking Violence Along the Hajj and Trade Routes of Central Hijaz (1900-1914)

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Date
2023-11-06
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Publisher
Saudi Digital Library
Abstract
This dissertation explores the meanings of violence that affected the caravan routes and endangered the security of their users, whether pilgrims or merchants. The prominent representation of this violence portrays it as a traditional practice committed by the Hijazi rural tribes (Bedouins). These acts were in search of money or retaliation against authority or the harsh environment of the Hijazi deserts. However, this work goes beyond this oversimplifying portrayal of Bedouin violence and examines it in all its intricacies. It shows that the Bedouins’ dominance over the caravan routes and their tax-free camel trade was no longer bearable by the various state-making projects beginning with the Ottoman centralisation reforms in Hijaz. Therefore, subduing these Bedouin tribes, controlling the Hajj and trade routes, and regulating the camel trade became paramount objectives for the architects of state formation in the region. In response to these efforts to monitor and reshape their livelihoods, Hijazi rural tribes utilised their supremacy over the deserts and the routes crossing them. They did so to create more appropriate conditions to negotiate these developments with the state. When these negotiations reached impasses, which happened frequently, they resorted to blocking the roads connecting Hijazi towns and threatening or robbing travellers. They aimed to compel the state to reconsider its policies. Therefore, these acts of violence were not mere means of sustenance but rather political strategies designed to negotiate the state-making projects and their repercussions on the Bedouins’ homeland and livelihoods. This reinterpretation emerged from an analysis of fifteen years of violence histories, spanning from 1900 to 1914, in Central Hijaz. This period witnessed three waves of violence aimed at addressing the tribes’ challenges and hardships. Despite shifts in power dynamics and state initiatives, violence during this era followed recurring patterns, surging during times of heightened tensions in Bedouin-state relations.
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Keywords
Modern History, Hijaz, Early Twentieth Century, Trade Routes, Hajj Routes, Caravan Routes, Tribes, Violence, Stata Formation, Negotiation
Citation
Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition (full note, with Ibid)
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