Philosophy > History of the tent
HISTORY OF THE TENT
Portable homes par excellence, tents can be included amongst some of the most primitive types of lodging known to man. They incorporate all of the principle elements of any small house: partitions, supporting pillars, a roof, flooring and an entrance; however them are much more than just a rudimentary canopy under which a person can eat and sleep: tents are mobile shelters and represent the “portable home” par excellence.
The tent is associated with the earliest forms of nomadism and is an essential accessory for all human activities that require a shelter capable of being set up and dismantled in a relatively short time. Nomadism however does not only involve constant or periodical migration and the concomitant need for “mobile” dwellings: nomadic populations have always tended to look for pastures where they might reside on a more permanent basis. This is an important point to some extent as it undermines the distinction that has often been made between the “sedentary- agricultural” and the “nomadic-pastoral” tribes or communities. Until recently, the two were considered rivals and that is to say as there were two potentially conflicting ways of exploiting available land. To grasp the point one has only to think of the marauding barbarian tribes, whose lifestyle contrasted rather considerably with that prevalent in the civilized Roman towns. Stereotypes such as these have long supported certain models of thought.
Today, and thanks to new research, a new and more civilized form of nomadism has emerged. Nomadism has always existed in every continent of the world: from the Sahara to Mongolia, from Arabia to America and from India to Siberia. The word “Arab” actually derives from the Semitic word used to indicate a “nomad” and is not specific to any particular place. Over time the term has come to indicate the migratory Bedouin tribes moving and trading with considerable success across the whole of Nabatea, Sinai and Mesopotamia. The common element however has always been the tent and with this, from the end of the 2nd century AD, the rearing of camels and dromedaries. In the Bedouin language the word “beit” still refers to both the tent and constructed urban dwellings. The Bedouin tent has in general a rectangular base, measures 3x4 meters and is divided into two distinct areas, one public the other private. The public area is for receiving guests and is on the left of the entrance. The private area is on the right and is reserved for women and other members of the family.