There are more than 100 million people in the world who identify as Arab, yet it is not a distinct ethnic group. In 1938 a group of Arab students meeting in Belgium stated that “all who are Arab in their language, culture and loyalty (or national feeling) are Arabs”.
In 1942 a union called the Arab League was formed. Today the countries which are part of the Arab League extend across the countries of North Africa with their coasts on the Mediterranean Sea and Somalia. On the eastern edge of the Mediterranean are Palestine Lebanon and Syria. In addition, the whole of the Arabian Peninsula is included.
All of these places have huge differences in ideology, outlook, government style, religion and to some extent language. There are differences in ideology and in outlook. In the cold war, some leaned towards Soviet powers others towards the west.
One thing that they do have in common is they are all old civilizations that have changed over time to adapt to a new and different world.
Looking back into ancient times, before Islam and well before the states mentioned above existed, the area of the world which is now known as the ArabianPeninsula was inhabited by nomadic tribes. An early name for these tribes was Bedouin which is derived from the Arabic word badawī which means Desert Dweller.
One of these was the Shammar tribal confederation. This one tribe can trace their line back to at least the 1100s when they stood with Saladin against the western crusaders. In 1301 a writer Ibn Fadhl first mentions the Shammar in written form and from then until today the tribe has been an integral part of the history of the region.
The Shammar Tribe
Originally the tribe, like many others in the region, established livelihoods based on horse breeding and camels, especially the latter animals that are superbly adapted to dwelling in the desert.
There are many clans and branches of the tribe and so unsurprisingly Shammar tribes people became involved in settlements and agriculture tending oases and turning them into cities in the desert.
Exodus and Migration
Members of the tribe formally left the homelands in the 1600s. Traditionally, in as much as a nomadic people was associated with any one place, the Shammar were associated with an area of the peninsula known as Najd. A formal exodus to Iraq took place in 1609 and less formal migration to other areas such as Syria and Yemen have continued throughout the years.
The Shammar Today
In the long history of the tribe, their existence in Syria and Iraq may be only a little more than a blink in time, but since 2014 the tribe has made its way to the forefront of the news by taking a stand against ISIS (Islamic State).
Today’s SDF (Syrian Defense Force) is an alliance of Syrian Kurds from the People’s Protection Units (YPG), Syrian Christian militias, and Sunni tribal fighters like the Shammar.
Ancient history meets today and continues into tomorrow.