The Bisharin of Egypt
Nearly one million Beja live in Sudan, Entria, and parts of Egypt. The Beja of Egypt number around 63,000 and are represented by two sub-groups who speak the Ababda and Bisharin dialects, after which they are named. These two sub-groups have similar cultures; only their dialects differ. They live along the Red Sea coasts and the eastern and western shores of the Nile, and among the antique ruins of Luxor, Karnak, and Aswan. Some also live in caves on the outskirts of these cities.
Descendants of Noah's grandson Cush, the Beja are native Africans who have occupied their current homelands for more than 4,000 years. They have long been influenced by Arabic culture and now follow the Islamic faith.
The Beja are known as the "Fuzzy Wuzzies" for their enormous crown of hair. They are a dark-skinned Caucasian people with small, strong, wiry builds. Most speak their native tongue Bedawye, but a majority speak Arabic as their first language.
What Are Their Lives Like?
The Bisharin have an expert technical knowledge of the needs and the care of animals, especially camels. Bisharin living close to the Red Sea breed not only camels, but also sheep, goats, buffalo, and cattle. They generally settle in two or three family enclosures (hisba) near a well on a fertile plot facing the desert.
For those residing along the Nile, the main economic activity is farming. The men maintain the water canals and watering systems, and the plowing and hoeing. They mostly cultivate cotton, sugar cane, corn, dura, wheat, sesame and various fruits and vegetables. They also raise poultry. Boys or older women generally tend the flocks of sheep and goats, while the adults take care of larger animals such as camels. Villages usually contain a few hundred inhabitants. Houses are made from clay bricks. In the larger villages, the Bisharin live together with Ababda, in brick dwellings or in tents encircled within a brick wall. All villages have an area which is reserved for men and visitors.
In each large Bisharin village there is a mosque which also serves as a public place for gathering and storing water. Another public place for men is the "kheima" (Arab word for tent), the seat of the majlis (village assembly).
In the large village centers, women do clay work, making containers of raw or baked clay, either for personal use or for sale. They also weave many items such as baskets. Men braid ropes and knot fishing nets.
The Ababda practice long-distance trade, frequenting the weekly markets in their territory. In the marketplace, women offer woven items, fruits, vegetables and poultry. Men engage in the buying and selling of livestock, farming products, and local and imported crafts.
Bisharin and Ababda occasionally intermarry, but most often emphasize marriages within their own groups. Both follow Islamic rules for the bride and groom, including the stipulation of a marriage contract.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Beja of Egypt are Muslim, following the practices of orthodox Muslims more closely than other Beja who live in Sudan and Eritrea. The Bisharin also still practice what is known as "folk Islam." Their beliefs are interwoven with a rich variety of traditional superstitions. For example, they believe that men have the power to curse others by giving them the "evil eye." They also believe in wicked jinnis (spirits capable of taking on animal forms) and other invisible spirits. They believe that evil spirits can cause sickness, madness, and accidents. They practice black magic and use animal sacrifices in sacred pagan ceremonies.
What Are Their Needs?
There are no missions agencies now working with the Bisharin and no known believers among their people. Also, no Christian materials are available in their dialect. They need laborers who can relate to their culture, translations of evangelistic tools in their language, and increased intercession so they may be reached with the Gospel message.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to send Christian laborers and missionaries into southern Egypt to work with the Bisharin.
- Ask God to raise up qualified linguists to translate the Bible into Bedawye.
- Pray that the Jesus film and other evangelistic materials will be made available in their language.
- Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Bisharin through dreams and visions.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Bisharin bound.
- Pray that God will save Bisharin leaders who will share the love of Jesus with their own people.
- Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Bisharin by the year 2000.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Bisharin
- Country: Egypt
- Their language: Bedawye (Beja)
- Largest religion:
- Christians: 0%
- Church members: 0
- Scriptures in their own language: None
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 0
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 2,500 (4%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 60,400 (96%)
- Country: Egypt
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 34
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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