Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘caravans

Nomads or the transmitters of civilizations; (September 5, 2009)

There are several types of nomadic tribes that can be differentiated along their line of business or trade and the climate environment of hot or cold.

There are tribes specialized in raising camels, lamas, or horses; tribes initiating caravans, transferring to other routes; tribes transporting goods within a territory; tribes relaying (subcontractors) caravans to other territories, and family/clan caravans transporting goods from point of dispatch to final destinations.

You have nomadic tribes hired to safeguard borders in rough areas; tribes specialized in securing safe passages to caravans in the resting stations and supplying water and urgent wants; tribes specialized in gathering intelligence in strategic regions and constitute the primary sources of impending troubles among Kingdoms; and tribes hired to guide troops.

Leaders of caravans are voracious intelligence gatherers: they need to know, even before undertaking their long journey with their expensive cargo: They want to know what are the political status and social unrest in every territory they have to cross.  Leaders of caravans are the best field managers and administrators and generally end up field commanders in periods of wars.  Caravan leaders learn to be great negotiators, flexible with all kinds of culture, customs, and idiosyncrasies; they acquire this “six sense” for comprehending people’s characters and behaviors for the best return on their business.

Family/clan caravan leaders are the best transmitters of civilizations with the most potential to survive downturns in commerce and among belligerent environments.  During wars, family/clan caravan leaders transport what kingdoms want and need and they supply demands.  They disseminate dialects, opinions, new techniques, and fashion.  Nomad women have first selection in matter of fashion; if you don’t believe my proposition then run it on your wife.

Mercenary nomadic tribes, hired during war periods, turn out to be the worst enemy for urban centers during and after wars finishes. The looting and razzias excursions have exacerbated the bad connotations of nomadic life style.  In general, nomadic tribes prefer weak central governments in neighboring kingdom to gain privileges and wider latitude for freedom of actions.  That is why the concept of distrusting nomads’ pledges might be truer to the nature of their existence for survival.

The tribes in Yemen and the southern Arabic Peninsula were the first to domesticate camels; first for the milk and then for caravan route, and then for war excursions.  They initiated or dispatched caravans of incense (exploited from their special trees), myrrh, and precious stones that they received from India.  The tribes in the towns of Mecca and Yathreb (Medina) were subcontractors or relayed caravans arriving from Yemen; the Nabatean tribes of Petra controlled the trade along the “King Road” from Damascus to Aqaba on the Red Sea.  The tribes in northern Arabic Peninsula and northern Syria were borders’ guards, resting stations suppliers, and intelligence gatherers among the various powerful kingdoms.

The Prophet Muhammad ran caravans from Mecca to Damascus and Basra in southern Iraq.  The powerful tribes of Mecca generated the most valuable military commanders and governors of districts during the first expansion of the Arabic Empire and ended up heading dynasties.

When speaking of nomads, people might think of the nomadic tribes in the Arabic Peninsula or the Sahara, mainly the hot climate desert nomads.  My contention is that the most potent transmitters of civilizations of China, India, and Persia are the nomadic tribes of the cold climate of Central Asia stretching from Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and the Caucasus regions.  It is these cold climate desert tribes that formed the backbones of all mercenary armies of ancient and the Middle Age Empires and who transmitted the slow process of civilization assimilation and dissemination as they were disbanded once wars ended among Empires.

It is these cold climate tribes that constituted the modern lucrative caravans along the “Silk Road” and mountain chains passages. The leaders of the cold weather caravans ended up the most valuable commanders and governors of provinces during and after the Arabic Abbasid Empires, in Persia, and in the Ottoman Empire.

Academic researchers demand to rely on the written documents to ponder upon, instead of reflecting when documents are not available. Nomadic tribes disseminated civilizations verbally, by communication, by story telling, around camp fires, by negotiating, by gathering intelligence and information. They also transmitted civilizations by transporting books, manuscripts, letters, and all kinds of written materials. It is unfortunate that this line of research is not taking off.

Genesis of the word Arab; (September 4, 2009)

The ancient Akkadian Empire in current southern Iraq, around the years 2,000 BC, used the word Aribi to designate the nomads exchanging incense, myrrh, and precious stones with the urban centers in the kingdom.

People have the tendency to lump all kinds of nomadic tribes as a uniform way of rough life and scarce food varieties. There are caravansary tribes transporting goods, and there are tribes paid to secure borders and trade routes.  There are cold weather nomads and hot climate nomads. I’ll write more on that topic in another post.

The major nomadic tribes or “bedwins, bedouin” were hired by merchants and the central government of the existing Empires to safeguard the main land trade routes.

The powerful tribes of current Yemen in the southern region of the Arabic Peninsula had exclusivity in raising camels and dispatching caravans to many directions. Thus, the job of many nomadic tribes was to roam a restricted area and have their encampments close to the resting stations on the trade routes.

In period of wars, and as trade dwindled, the nomads made incursions in the nearby urban centers and looted to survive. Thus, this enmity and bad connotations attributed to the bedwins. It is in that perspective that we could comprehend the harsh description of the historian/sociology Tunisian Arabic Ibn Khaldoun (15th century) concerning the behavior and characteristics of Arabs, meaning the tribes still adopting the nomadic lifestyle.

Those nomadic tribes transported their precious cargo by land on camel caravans.  There were vast land networks for the caravans.

In the eastern shores of the Arabic Peninsula of Hadramout, by the Indian Ocean, the city of Shabwa was a major center for incense warehousing.  Incense is a white product that is collected from special trees (Boswelia sacra) that grow from Hadramawt to Zafar in actual Yemen.

Caravans start at Shabwa and travel to Ma3in along the coastal Red Sea.  From the town of Ma3in the route fork to either north or west.  The northern route passes through Maarib and then Najran toward the port of Gerrha on the Persian/Arab Gulf for the Persia and Iraq markets.

The western route passes by Timna (the ancient Capital of Yemen), continues to Yathreb (known as Medina), then Petra in Jordan and resumes the trip toward Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea.

The Roman historian Pline recounts that there were 65 halts between Timna and Gaza. Gaza was the major depot for all kinds of incense, myrrh, and precious stones.  Alexander was about to lift his siege of Gaza when a side door to the impregnable fort was opened following a minor struggles outside the rampart.  Alexander troops entered the fort and he sent all the incense that his superstitious mother needed to burn for her Gods.

Another main trade route was known as “The King route” crossing Syria to the port of Aqaba on the Red Sea. The Jewish tribes would be hired to keep this route safe from minor nomadic clans.  Later, there would be established the “Silk Road” from China to Persia to Turkey to Venice and Europe.

Another varieties of nomadic tribes from Central Asia, bordering the Persian Empires extending from Turkey to west India, would be safeguarding this major and long route.

Maritime routes from India were also used, but they ended in the eastern shores of the Arabic Peninsula or in the southern shores of Iran at the entrance of the Gulf to be transported by land.

So far, archaeology has discovered the word Arab in a text during the reign of the Assyrian King Salmanassar III. The document of 853 BC describes the King’s victory in Tell Karkar in the valley of the Orontes River (Al 3assi, Syria) against a coalition of the Kings of Damascus, Hama, Achab, Israel, and the Arab Gindibu with his one thousand camels.

Gindibu’s tribe had settled in the southern desert of Syria.  Camels were used by archers who dismounted at close range for the fight.  The Assyrian Kingdom with capital in northern Iraq (mostly Kurdish districts now) had replaced the Kingdom of Babylon and had subjugated many Arab tribes in the north of the Arabic Peninsula.

The nomadic tribes had Matriarchal structure and their priestesses (such as Zabibeh, Samsi, and many other priestesses) were called Queens by the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrian documents prove that the Arab tribes were disseminated along the “King Road” and even in northern Syria.

The Hebrew word of “Arabah” means desert. Thus arabah meant tribes leading a nomadic life in desert-like regions.  The tribes in the southern regions of the Arabic Peninsula such as Yemen never considered themselves as Arabs.

The word Arab in Yemenite documents of the second century AC refers to people not urbanized or living off agriculture; it is the same meaning that the Prophet Muhammad used.

The Arab Nabatean tribe with capital in Petra (Jordan) controlled the “King Road” for over two centuries; they spoke an Arabic dialect but wrote in Aramaic.

In about 140 BC, the southern Jewish tribes of Palestine, led by the Maccabe, established a Kingdom that lasted over a century.  The Maccabe Kingdom during John Hyrcan conquered the southern part of Jordan and most of Palestine, including the Galilee region.  John Hyrcan converted to Judaism and by the sword all the inhabitants of his Kingdom. The people were to be circumcised and follow the Judaic rituals and laws of the Jewish sect in Judea.

That is why Jesus was not considered a “true” Jew by the Pharisee cast in Jerusalem.  Most Arab tribes in that region were converted to Judaism and many settled in Yathreb (Medina) to control the caravan route going to Gaza.

Note 1: The word Aribi, transformed into Arab, meant “the neighbors” (to the Kingdom).  In fact the nomadic tribes were spread along the borders of the Kingdoms of Akkad and later the Kingdom of Babylon.  Nowadays, each one of the Arab States has its Arab “neighbors” and it has no confidence in the friendship intention of their neighbors.

Note 2: There is a myth that I don’t care about, but is all the rage in theology and affecting religious dogmas.  It is recounted that Noah had Sem who was head of the tribe Terah; Sem (Semitic race?) had three sons: Abraham was the eldest, Nehor, and Aran (Arian race?).

Abraham had his eldest son Ismail from his “Egyptian slave” Agar; he also had Isaac from his “legitimate” wife Sarah.

The Muslims consider Abraham as their first prophet and “father” and are entitled to all the “legitimate” legacies of God; the Jews would like you to believe that legitimacy is inherited from Sarah’s legitimacy.  That is how I understand it.

Note 3: Arab does not designate any kinds of ethnicity. It is the ability to write and understand classical Arabic language or the Arab dialect that was spoken in the City of Mecca (imposed by the Prophet as the language of his religion) that forms the basis to be categorized an Arab.  Indeed, Muhammad said it that every religion has its own language and vice versa since all monotheist religions are fundamentally the same.  Moslems around the world have the Arabic Koran as common denominators but the translation of the Koran into the appropriate local languages will generate as many Islamic sects as there are major languages.

Note 4: The Aramaic language was the language of the Middle East for over 3,000 years; it was spoken by the people of all Empires in that region from current Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western part of Iran known as Ilam in ancient history or (Arabestan for late Saddam Hussein regime).  Aramaic is the root language of Arabic; the Arab nomads spoke several Arabic dialects but wrote in Aramaic as all the urban centers in the Middle East.

Note 5: The Omayyad dynasty, founded by Moawiyah, selected Damascus for the Capital of the Arab Empire and the people in the Near East spoke Aramaic as well as most of the “Arabic” tribes that settled in and around the urban centers of Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Lebanon. If there is an Arab civilization then it was created during the Umayyad period since the people in that part of the Near East could comprehend and write Aramaic.  The classical Arabic language was established and spread during the Umayyad dynasty.

Note 6: For the Arab Nations (about 22 States) to exist in the future they have to mind their classical language and enrich it with various modern “Arabic” slang words and expressions to be viable among the Arab people.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

November 2020
M T W T F S S
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Blog Stats

  • 1,441,660 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 784 other followers

%d bloggers like this: