The Zott Gypsies of the Middle East
A Cluster of 3 Zott Gypsy groups located in 3 countries
Gypsies call themselves Rom, which in their language means "men." Rom is derived from the Indian word Dom, meaning "a man of low caste who gains his livelihood by singing and dancing." In the Arab world, Gypsies are called Zot or Nauar, hence the Zott (or Nawari) Gypsies. The Zott live in Iran, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates. The major difference between the Zott and other Gypsies is their language. The Zott speak Arabiya (Arabic).
It is believed that Gypsies originated in India where they worked as musicians, entertainers, and metal workers. From there, they began to migrate. Some went to Afghanistan and Persia; others went to Armenia, and Russia; another group went into Turkey; and some traveled southward into the Middle East and North Africa. Also, the various Gypsy languages all belong to the North Indo-Aryan language family. However, regardless of where they lived, the Gypsies never lost their common characteristics, especially their mysterious way of life.
What are their lives like?
Most of the Gypsies live in Europe, and very little is known about the Zott in particular. It is assumed that they are still nomads, wandering from region to region, dependent on the people for their livelihood. It is common for Gypsies to have two or more specialized occupations. This makes it easier for them to adapt to a changing society's needs. When a region's people no longer need a Gypsy's particular skill, they move on to one that will. When a Gypsy cannot adapt or change his occupation, he will settle down. Today, therefore, there are some Gypsy villages and communities in the Middle East. Some even live in the cities.
Nomadic Gypsies either travel in caravans of wagons or carts, or they ride on camels, donkeys, or horses. The settled Gypsies usually live in houses that are typical to those of the region in which they settle.
Gypsies have long been known for their abilities as musicians, singers, and dancers. They also hold a wide variety of other occupations. The men are skilled makers of sieves, drums, bird cages, and reed mats. They also entertain with animals, work as tinkers, or play music. The women peddle such things as cloth, shoes, kitchen utensils, or products made by the men. Many also sing and dance. Both men and women shear sheep, spin wool, and tell fortunes. Sadly, some of the women and children are forced to beg or even steal food as a means of survival.
Gypsy marriages usually take place between couples in their teens. Though polygyny (having more than one wife) is sometimes practiced, it is rare. The family unit is highly valued because each member is depended on for his financial contribution.
Typically, Gypsies have very unclean living habits due to their nomadic lifestyle. Sanitation and good hygiene are rarely practiced. Children are often poorly cared for; their hair hangs loosely and shoes are seldom worn. Their wagons or carts are used as living units and shops as well as for transportation, which contributes to their unsanitary lifestyle.
Values such as justice, fidelity, and morality are very significant in Gypsy society. Such things as courtesy and friendliness are also very important. The control of deviants is strictly enforced. If a Gypsy becomes impure by some immoral or unlawful act, he is considered an outcast. Also, sexual purity is considered a must for young girls. In fact, it must be proven before marriage that the girl has never been with a man. This strict social code is related to their old Hindu caste system, which they have kept since their origin.
What are their beliefs?
What are their needs?
Spiritually, the Islamic religion is very difficult to penetrate. Their nomadic lifestyle makes it hard for missionaries to reach them, and their reputation as beggars and thieves makes them undesirable targets for outreach.
Most Gypsies have no Christian resources available to them. However, because the Zott speak Arabic, they have the Jesus film and the Bible in their language. Unfortunately, there are no missions agencies currently working among the Zott. Christian workers are needed to live among them and teach them how to live in a way that pleases God.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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