Hashish Smuggling by Bedouin in South Sinai
This paper examines the changing fortunes of the smuggling operations of South Sinai Bedouin. The Bedouin are a link in the international drug traffic delivering hashish and other drugs to the inhabitants of the Nile Valley. The full-scale entry of the South Sinai Bedouin into drug smuggling began around 1950, and in less than two decades smuggling grew into a major industry. At its zenith it provided about 30% of the aggregate income of the Bedouin population. Then smuggling stopped almost overnight, for during the 15 years of Israeli occupation, from 1967 to 1982, the crossing from the Sinai Peninsula into mainland Egypt was too dangerous for the operators. During my fieldwork in South Sinai, which overlapped with the Israeli occupation, most of the Bedouin were working as migrant laborers and a handful entered the budding local tourist industry, so that the loss of income from smuggling did not cause them economic hardship. But the leaders of the smuggling gangs remained at home, and it was quite easy to meet them. They appeared to be inactive, but I soon realized that they were working hard at keeping the smuggling organizations alive: they fostered the ties with members of their former gangs and looked after their mountain retreats. They were convinced that the political and economic situation would sooner or later change, and that drug smuggling would once again become feasible. Other Bedouin too acted to forestall an uncertain future: they maintained orchards and small flocks, which at that time yielded no income, as an economic reserve.
KeywordsDrug Traffic Drug Trade Sinai Peninsula Safe Route Drug Smuggling
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