For today’s millennials, the most frequent meaning of the word nomads is understood as those cool members of our society who find a way to travel the world while freelancing. At least I’ve discovered this word seeing it on some IT guy’s T-shirt for the first time. Initially, it describes a person who lives in a community without a permanent habitation and always moves while following the seasonal harvest and hunting. So, who are these nomadic tribes, and what does their life look like?
If you think of the worst place to live on Earth, it would probably be Sahara’s desert. And yet, this is where the tribe of Tuaregs lives. Wandering around the biggest desert in the world since the 4th century AD, the Tuaregs know a thing or two about moving. They started to hustle their lives thousands of years ago, and the main source of their livelihood was trade – bringing goods from the Southern part of the desert to the Northern cities near the Mediterranean sea.
The tribe lives by Islam, but it has a distinctive feature about it: here, not the women, but the men cover their heads and faces. Adult males traditionally wear a blue veil in the presence of women, strangers, and in-laws.
Nenets, also called Samoyeds, are the largest Russian nomad community, reliable on their main source of livelihood – reindeers. No matter how cute those four-legged animals would be, they are not only their loyal carriers and transport but also a supply for shelter, food, and clothing.
Hanging out mostly in the northern arctic part of Russia, Nenets do travel around. They spend their winters in the southern taiga and their summers in the north.
Now the Nenets are threatened by climate change that has significantly worsened their 800 miles annual trip. The unusual flash of warmer weather and rain in the winter followed by the cold makes their way to the south icy. That means no food for the reindeers. Yet summers are as hot as never before, leaving the tundra rainless. That makes it hard for reindeer to pull the loaded sleighs across the dry land. Thus, Nenets are less likely to complete their whole trip every year.
Kochi people of Afghanistan also depend on animals. Though, these middle-eastern nomads got sheep and goats to build up their life from. They raise animals and trade their meat, wool, and dairy for other important foods. Kochi people migrate from Afghanistan to Pakistan and are allowed to cross the border despite their political situation. Though not all of the Kochis live a peaceful nomadic life, some join Afghanistan’s political movement called the Taliban.
The Bedouins are the wanderers of the Middle Eastern deserts who happen to travel among several countries, such as Israel, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Syria, and even North Africa. In the rainy winter season, they move to the desert, while in the summer, they come back to the cultivated land. The Arab speaking nomads also herd their local animals that are mostly camels and goats. The urbanization in the region has a huge impact on nomads – a part of them has started their life in towns. Though, there are still lots of desert wanderers out there. You can even meet them and try out their style of living while in Jordan.
The Sami people live in four of today’s countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia. Their settlement now mostly is in the Northern part of Scandinavia and Russia’s Kola peninsula. That includes Lapland in Finland, so if you’re planning to visit Santa any time soon, odds are you’re going to meet the indigenous people, too.
The same as Russia’s Nenets, Samis are herding reindeers, but they depended on hunting and gathering before that. Only in the 17th century, they domesticated the reindeers. Sami also do fishing, crafts, and other trades and tourism. So if you are interested in seeing the life of Northern European nomads from up close, you can do so while joining their festivals and activities.
To think about
While exploring these communities’ everyday lives that is light-years away from the one you live in, I suggest stopping and contemplating for a minute. Think about what you are grateful for, reconsider the size of your present problems, and imagine the ones today’s living nomads might have. It does not mean that the modern Western person’s issues are less than the ones nomad communities confront. It is only a suggestion to put it into perspective, bringing some new insights and goals.