Characters of Egypt

In 2010, for the first, time all Bedouin tribes from different parts of Egypt were gathered at the same place: the Characters of Egypt festival in Marsa Alam. In total, there were twenty one tribes coming from seven regions, with each tribe reflecting Egypt’s rich variation in language, customs and laws.

The project, initiated by Walid Ramadan, was organized for the first time in 2008, but the 2010 gathering was the largest and most successful. In 2011, it was smaller; in 2012 and 2013 it was halted, probably because of the political instability in the country.

Cutting across distances – in some cases more than 1500 kilometers – tribal representatives came from Siwa and Farafra in the Western Desert, from Northern and Southern Sinai, and from Aswan. They all gathered in Wadi El Gemal where members of the Al-Bashariya and Al-Ababda tribes, inhabitants of the Southern and Eastern deserts who hosted the event, awaited their encounter.

Under the roof of one tent, for the first time in history, 120 tribesmen shared stories, music, poetry, food, games, arts and discussions. Egyptian photographer Nour El Refai documented the 2010 meeting in Wadi El Gemal.

The sword dance is a traditional performance of the Ababda people called “Maggad”.

The Ababda and Bishareya tribes hosted the event, as they both live in the land of Wadi Al Gemal, Marsa Alam. The Ababda people traditionally wear light grey vests, the Bishareya wear black vests.

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