KAFR EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) – With the roads and brick housing blocks of Egypt’s densely populated Nile Delta in the distance, Elsayed Abuhamed and his family have pitched their tents in a field scattered with straw, tied up their livestock, and are cooking over an open fire.
They are part of the El Dawaghra tribe, more than 300 families of livestock herders who for generations have wandered the land as nomads, resisting the urge to settle like many other Bedouin tribes.
Although they have identification papers, they otherwise live outside the boundaries of Egypt’s vast bureaucracy, not sending their children to public schools nor benefiting from the state food subsidy system.
“I asked my father why we live this way, he told me that this is how our ancestors lived,” Abuhamed said.
Abuhamed, 28, travels and lives with his wife, children, and extended family. They can spend from a few days to months in a location, depending on the weather, how much food is available for livestock, or temporary work opportunities.
They cannot afford routine medical care, relying only on public hospitals if children fall sick. Education would open the door to more stable income, shelter, and quality healthcare, he says, “but this life of ours doesn’t allow for education”.
His brother’s wife, Thanaa, said she used to live in a home with beds and a television, before she married into the nomadic way of life.
“I came here to live in the fields and it is a very difficult lifestyle, a very difficult one,” she said.
“I’m used to it. I have children and I’m thankful.”
(Reporting by Hadeer Mahmoud; Writing by Nafisa Eltahir, Editing by Alexandra Hudson)