Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies


Notes on the dialect and way of life of the Āl Wahība bedouin of Oman

Roger Webster

Between 1985 and 1987 the present writer took part in a multi-disciplinary study of the Wahiba Sands organized by the Royal Geographical Society. During this time I was able to travel extensively through and around the Sands to visit many bedouin families of the Āl Wahība, who inhabit the greater part of the area, and other tribes including the Āl ،Amr, Āl Bū ،Īsa, Ḣikmān, Hishm and Janaba who are found in certain enclaves, particularly to the east and north of the main sand desert. The purpose of my research was to make a social and ethnographic survey rather than a purely linguistic one, but in the process I was able to record some dialect speech including the text presented below.

Very little was known about the bedouin of this part of Oman prior to the Wahiba Sands Project. Holes has recently published examples of some related dialects and has proposed a classification scheme as the basis for a dialect geography of Northern Oman (Holes, 1989). Bedouin dialects of central and eastern Arabia have been more extensively described and classified (Holes, 1983; Ingham, 1982(a), 1982(b), 1986; Johnstone, 1961, 1964, 1965, 1967). Comparative studies of the distribution of certain features of present-day dialects have been shown to shed light on the population movements of the past, often supporting the written histories and oral traditions of the area.