Tribes, borders, landscapes and reciprocal relations: The Wadi Arabah and its meaning

Piotr Bienkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Wadi Arabah forms part of the modern political border between Jordan and Israel. The paper explores the polarized ways in which the wadi has been constructed and interpreted within the archaeological and geopolitical discourse. Through a phenomenological analysis of landscape, power and identity, using insights from bedouin poetry, the landscape of the wadi is revealed as emotionally meaningful in its materiality, as a sacred/symbolic, conceptual/socio-political, sensual landscape, a landscape of movement and of memory, absence, loss and abandonment. In this landscape, populated and crossed by many different groups who were not necessarily subject to shared social, institutionalized norms, different groups had different resources, abilities and knowledge which they brought to any encounter with another group, and which were integral to their identity. These encounters developed as reciprocal relationships and negotiations rather than as traditional 'power relationships'. This helps to explain the longevity of the key aspects of the tribal kingdom model, previously proposed by the author and others; these aspects are rooted in reciprocal relationships based on different resources, 'power', and knowledge of landscape. © The Fund for Mediterranean Archaeology/Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2007.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-60
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Mediterranean Archaeology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


  • Bedouin poetry
  • Israel
  • Jordan
  • Landscape
  • Phenomenology
  • Tribes
  • Wadi Arabah


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