The Bedouins have their unwritten law called 'Al 'Orf' which is accepted by the Egyptian authorities.
Each law is given a specific name like 'Onwa', 'Doukhl' or 'Hilf'.
Decisions in important matters are made at tribal gatherings called 'Majlis' with the participation of all and are based on consensus.
At these gatherings all may speak, but most weight is attached to the words of men of recognised authority.
The tribal 'Shaykh' is regarded as the man of authority who rests his case on his wealth, his inherited prestige, his personal capabilities in helping fellow tribe members, and -as a result of all of this- his occupying the most preeminent position in society. The 'Shaykh' and other men of authority are therefore the ones that speak on behalf of the parties and represent them.
The Bedouins accept those leaders who forego the use of overwhelming force. With respect to tribal leaders, contentment, good relations and direct, straightforward relationships facilitate the process of achieving cooperation when the leaders are managing affairs. Orders, arbitrary decisions and harsh bureaucratic decrees can't do this.
'Al 'Orf' is tough as life in the desert and blood calls for blood...
If a member of a clan commits murder inside the clan, nobody will defend him and in case of an escape he/she will become an outlaw. No worse tragedy could happen to a Bedouin than the loss of tribal protection. A Bedouin without protection and security of his tribe is helpless and lost (in the desert).
If the murder is outside the clan, a vendetta is established and any fellow clan member may have to pay for the crime with his own life. A blood feud may last for many years.
Yet, what can result in a blood feud can also be solved in terms of paying 'Ursh Dam' (blood money) or even in forgiveness for the greater good.
Every case (an insult or a murder) is discussed by family and clan members, before it goes to the 'Tlaaba' (a Bedouin court) where a final judgment is founded on a comprehensive discussion of the matter which can often last for days or even weeks.
An interesting law is 'Bisha-a': The ordeal by fire.
You can read how this law goes about by clicking, at the top of this webpage, on the tab: THE 'BISHA-A' LAW
Another interesting law is 'Hilf'.
You can read how this law goes about by clicking, at the top of this webpage, on the tab: THE 'HILF' LAW
The Bedouin women are protected by 'Al 'Orf'.
According to 'Al 'Orf', an offender awaits 4 times double punishment for any misbehaviour against Bedouin women then he (or she) would get for any misbehaviour against a man under similar circumstances.
This means, that if a woman (dressed in a black 'abaya' and 'tarha) stands before a man (or son) to defend him, nobody will dare to touch him.
Between clansmen, verbal tongue-lashing was usually sufficient to ensure compliance, with agreements, but in the event there is conflict over land or usufruct the 'Shaykh' resolves disputes, both within the tribe and he represents the tribe in disputes with other tribes. A 'Kabir' (spokesman/lawyer) is selected to represent each party in the dispute and someone is appointed as a 'Kafeel' (guarantee).
However, Bedouins are relatively powerless to discipline non-Bedouin offenders...
• Larry Winter Roeder Jr.
• Zoltan Matrahazi
• R. A. Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs, Cambridge 1930, 79. (W. Montgomery Watt)
• Royal Embassy of Saoudi Arabia, Washington DC: Blending Tradition and Progress in the Desert