in my last post on saudi arabs, i mentioned that there are maybe, perhaps some hints that the historic mating patterns amongst the najdis of the central part of the arab peninsula were closer than those amongst the hejazis of the western coast. maybe. there are only hints, so it’s hard to be sure.

one other hint that the hejazis maybe outbred a bit more than the najdis is the somewhat greater freedoms that women have historically had in the region (the pattern seems to be the stronger the inbreeding, the more restrictions on women). from Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity [pg. 27]:

“As in other societies the Arab concept of family is closely linked to that of female honour. In the Arabian Peninsula the urban Hijazis have historically been viewed as more lax or lenient in such matters than tribal Najdi culture, with its strict Wahhabi norms of sexual segregation. An increased emphasis on female honour has, however, developed among some of the Hijazi *’awa’il* in reaction to Najdi standards.”

if the elevation/marginal environment theory of inbreeding/outbreeding is correct, then it would make sense if arabs living right along the coast in the west were inbred less. same for those on the east coast, i suppose. (the greatest oubreeders of the arab peninsula ought to be in the southeast area of saudi arabia, but i don’t think many people live there!):

saudi arabia - topography
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in any case, saudi society is not just clannish, it’s downright tribalistic — and the people of the hejazi region don’t like the people of the najdi region. and the feeling is very much mutual [pgs. 16-17, 85]:

The most obvious and important expression of the persistence of social boundaries is the rarity of intermarriage between Najdis and Hijazis, with obvious implications for cultural assimilation. Hijazi opinion on this matter varies. Some explain that Najdi men fear the consequences of marital alliances with Hijazi families, while others contend that Hijazis are reluctant to allow their daughters to marry Najdis, because of polygamy, ease of divorce and stricter gender segregation among the Najdis. Najdi men — who do not hesitate to take wives from other Arab countries — regard marrying a woman from the same country as a greater commitment, especially when she is from an inferior or less ‘pure’ lineage in the Najdi grading of tribal descent. Meanwhile, the Hijazies, who claim descent from the Prophet’s tribe, the Quarysh, consider themselves the superior ones. Competition in ‘purity of blood’ in the Arabian Peninsula reaches its apotheosis in the context of intermarriage, and the few instances of it are typically between a Hijazi man and a non-tribal (i.e. ‘non-pure blood’) Najdi *khadiri*, as a tribal Najdi *gabili* will not marry outside the group. Even in these rare cases, the Najdi *khadiri* family typically makes the marriage procedures very lenthy and costly….

“The images that Hijazi and Najdi have of one another and the names they use to describe each other are further indications of social boundaries and the consciousness that sustains them. The Hijazis, for example, call the Najdis *shurug* (Easterners), a derogatory term. Another term, *badu* (Bedouin), carries an even worse connotation — essentially a lack of urban refinement. On the other hand, the Najdis call Hijazis *tarsh al-bahr*, (the flotsam of the sea) and *bagaya hujjaj*, (pilgrimage remnants). Whereas the first term is applied to those from Jeddah and the second to Meccans and Medinese, both allude to the ‘impurity’ of Hijazis’ Arab descent, owing to intermarriage with non-Arab Muslims. While the Najdis pride themselves on their lineage and *asala* (purity of blood), the Hijazis pride themselves on their *zawg* (good taste), *anaga* (elegance), *nazaka* (refinement) and *usul* (knowledge of the rules of propriety). To be sure, Hijazis also place lineage as the first criterion of status and respectability, especially those claiming descent from the Quraysh. But for those from other Muslim countries who settled in Mecca, Medina or Taif, lineage does not imply ‘blood purity’, but rather three generations of good social standing. As a result, ‘Najdis regard Hijazis as degenerate and not quite Arabian’….

“Marriages between Hijazis and Najdis are very rare. The exceptions are one way, occurring between a *khadiri* (non-tribal, ‘non-pure’ Najdi) woman and a Hijazi man, especially if he is wealthy and offering a high *mahr*. Najdis do not marry Hijazis because their lineage is not considered pure enough. Therefore Hijazis are excluded from marriage with the Najdi elite…. The rarity of cases of inter-marriage between Hijazis and Najdis is the most significant expression of the social boundaries between the regions of Saudi Arabia and an obvious example of the cultural distinctivenss of the Hijazis. Despite the attempt at integration and national homogeneity, marriage practices and alliances demonstrate the fractured nature of the Saudi state.

not much love there, then.
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and, like i said, saudi society is very tribal — extremely tribal. from Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State [pgs. 181-182, 184, 186-187 – links added by me]:

“Saudi Arabia is known in the literature as a ‘rentier state.’ In its most narrow meaning, a rentier states refers to a state which gains most of its revenues not from taxes, but rather from the income (‘rents’) derived from the sale of natural resources, in this case — petroleum. In the Saudi case, the state distributes much of the income to the population, without taxing it. Saudi Arabia has (as have other wealthy Gulf states) an unwritten ‘social contract’ between the Sa’ud family and its subjects: the family runs a cradle-to-grave social welfare system and guarantees employment in the public sector; in exchange, the population is expected to be loyal, without having a representative system. It is, in fact, a system of ‘no taxation, no representation.’

This governmental system dovetails quite nicely with the tribalistic character of Saudi Arabia, and to a great extent even duplicates it. Although the tribe, as a discrete social unit, has been somewhat weakened in Saudi Arabia due to the efforts of the Saudi state, the structure of relations between the Sa’ud family and the population operates to a great extent according to tribalistic patterns and values, and thus contributes to national cohesion.

“Certain political, and socio-economic groups develop a corporate identity and behavior, not unlike that of tribes. These groups are termed *’asabiyyat* (from the word *’asabiyya*, tribal solidarity), and indeed form the core of social cohesion in Saudi Arabia. They are patron-client groups that have a common tribal, regional, family, or ethnic background, which is used to obtain jobs or resources from the central government. In return, the central government uses these relationships to command the loyalty of these groups. In this sense, the state is an extension of tribal politics.

in 1961, when the saudi central government was moved from jeddah (in hejazi territory) to riyadh (in najdi territory), pretty much ALL of the hejazi civil servants were sacked and replaced with najdis [pg. 94]. now THAT’S what i call nepotism!

more from Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State:

“Tribalistic patterns of behavior are characterized by a high degree of personalization since they are based on personal relationships. For instance, the main ministries are headed by members of the Saudi royal family that represent the various ‘circles of power.’ To get a job in one of those ministries, one must ally oneself with the relevant faction of the family, or with someone associated with it. The most powerful circles of power [in 2008 when this book was published-h.chick] are the Al Salman (connected to Salman, the governor of Riyadh province), the Al’ Abdallah (associated with the present king), the Al Fahd (connected to Fahd, who was king until his death in 2005), the Al Na’if (connected to the minister of the interior, and the Al Sultan (connected to the heir apparent and minister of defense and aviation). These circles act as corporate groups looking out for one another. They consist of blood relatives and their associates. Until a few years ago, applicants for government jobs were required to provide their family and tribal background, going back five generations, as part of the application process. This clearly illustrates how the royal family uses tribal patterns and values to maintain its rule.

“Like the head of a tribe, the state is responsbile for the protection of its citizens. The state, personified in the Sa’ud family which functions as the head of a tribe, protects the people’s physical and financial safety. Like all tribal leaders, members of the royal family mediate disputes, and keep the peace….

The Saudi royal family/state also functions as a genealogical organizer of society. As tribes did in the past, it determines who will marry whom. The fact that it makes it hard for Saudis to marry non-Saudis contributes to the myth of an entire country under Sa’ud domination, of one vast exclusive tribal family patronized by the Al Sa’ud. Since Saudi citizenship, which grants admission to the tribal family, confers entitlement to the largesse of the *shaykh*, the Saudis have created powerful incentives for their citizens to accept the truth of the myth of Saudi national identity, an identity fused with religion, in which membership is in fact a coveted privilege bestowed by birthright….

“Regional identities

“The region with the most highly developed sense of regional identity is the Hijaz, a strip of land along Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, stretching from the border with Jordan in the north nearly to Yemen in the south. In it are situated the two holiest places in Islam, Mecca and Medina.

“In the Hijaz the elite are quite aware of the status they enjoyed before what the Saudis call unification, and some Hijazis call occupation, or annexation. When they feel they are being treated as second-class citizens, which they often are because the Najdis hold most of the government and religious jobs, they strive to gain recognition by asserting their distinctiveness as the elite of Islam’s holiest places.

“One recent manifestation of the this regionalism is the periodical *al-Hijaz*, published in London by the Hijazi National Organization (*al-jam’iyya al-wataniyya al-Hijaziyya*). The periodical is extremely anti-Saudi, and seeks to celebrate Hijazi culture and distinctiveness. The articles, most of which remain unsigned, refer not to the ‘unification’ of Arabia under the Saudis, as stated in the official narrative, but rather to the occupation of the Hijaz….

“Some Hijazis are thus beginning to assert their distinctiveness, whether through writing about Hijazi customs and food, or by wearing Hijazi dress. Indeed, there seems to be a revival of Hijazi dress lately. People who choose to wear Hijazi dress do so at some risk since it is Najdi dress which is considered the national dress and is worn by most of those in or close to power. What one wears is a statement, and is noted immediately. Some Hijazis are demonstratively reverting to their own regional dress, which includes a tighter-fitting robe calle a *jubba*, and a turban, or *’amama*….

“One man stands out as leader of the Hijazi cultural movement, namely Sami al-Angawi, an architect, who has made it his life’s work to preserve the customs, dress, and architecture of the Hijaz against Najdi attempts to eliminate them. He openly wears Hijazi dress. Moreover, he explicitly declares that he is a Sufi, a mystic — in other words, that he belongs to a stream of Islam which is forbidden by the Wahhabi clerics, who monopolize religion in Saudi Arabia.

He has protested the destruction of Hijazi architecture and Hijazi holy sites by envious Wahhabis, who see the worship of these sites as unlawful religious innovation (*bid’a*). Several of these sites have been destroyed, the most recent amongst them being the Jiyad fortress, built by the Ottomans in the eighteenth century, and destroyed in 2002. The fortress was the site from which Husayn bin ‘Ali started the Arab Revolt in Mecca. It overlooks the Ka’aba, and was removed to make way for a massive, five-story project. The developers of the project are the Bin Ladin Company, which has close ties to the royal family.”

i could never understand all the destruction of islamic sites — including mohammed’s mother’s grave (!) — happening in mecca and medina (see also here). greed (i.e. wanting to build huMONgous hotel complexes to milk the hajj crowds) doesn’t seem to cover it, afaiac. but now that i know that all these sites are in hejazi territory and are connected with hejazi history — and the fact that it’s mostly najdis destroying them — NOW it all makes sense! it’s tribes vs. tribes, that’s all.

previously: historic mating patterns on the arabian peninsula and tribalism on the innerwebs

(note: comments do not require an email. mecca’s big ben!)

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