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The ancient Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq

Posted in Anthropology, Geography on Tuesday, 27 November 2012

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This edited article about the marsh Arabs originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 788 published on 19th February 1977.

Marsh Arabs, picture, image, illustration

The Marsh Arabs of Southern Iraq

In the vast swamps, lagoons and waterways that surround the lower Tigris and Euphrates, in Southern Iraq, live a people known as the marsh people. They are mainly Arabs, and they live in reed houses on artificial islands built of packed reeds. Although they are despised and shunned by the nomadic desert tribes, they are a proud people.

They live a hard, lonely and bitter existence, forced upon them by the very changeable climate of their homeland, which often inflicts on them tearing gales and floods, capable of turning the province into a great sea. At other times a damp, sticky heat settles over the land, bringing with it clouds of mosquitoes.

During the winter, the marshes are full of wild life, ranging from herons, pelicans, flamingoes to eagles and otters, as well as the marsh people’s worse enemy, the wild boar, which destroys their crops and often attacks and kills them.

The marsh Arabs are divided into two groups. The Fellah who are farmers, and the Ma’dan, who are chiefly buffalo raisers.

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