10 Fascinating Nomadic Communities That Still Exist Today

Published 4 years ago on August 1, 2016
By vincent

Everyone has their routine whether that be going to work, school or college or having the leisure to do something else with your days but at the end of them, almost all of us have somewhere to come back to, somewhere we can call home but some communities actively avoid this stationary lifestyle. Millions of people across the globe live as nomads, going from place to place either as a means of making a living or just an existing way of life that has survived for generations.

Here we look at 10 nomadic communities and what life is like for these traveling folk.


1. Nukak Maku

The Nukak Maku live within the darkest depths of the Colombian rainforest and traverse the jungle as a community of hunter-gatherers that use the bounty around them for sustenance. Living off the wildlife, the Nukak Maku self-craft weapons, such as blowpipes and spears to bring down prey like monkeys and birds but they will not touch deer or tapirs because they believe them to be of the same origin as humans.

This way of life served them so well that they kept themselves entirely separate from the outside world right up until 1988. Devastated by illness brought by outside people and now on the verge of extinction because of the consequences of guerrilla actions in the area and the 'War on Drugs', they are the last nomadic tribe in Colombia.


2. Sarakatsani

A group that has now largely moved away from their nomadic origins but still tries to maintain their culture, the Sarakatsani are from Greece and have been nomads since 4AD. 

This means that their way of life has strong connections to pre-classical Greece and they are thought to have been descended from the Dorian Greeks who became shepherds after isolating themselves in the mountains although no one is entirely sure of their origins.


3. Irish Travellers

Although referred to as Irish travelers, this nomadic group are an ethnic group separate from the Irish with their own language that derives from both Irish and Romani. Although they predominantly make money from trade in such things as scrap metal and greyhound breeding, for the most part, they keep themselves separate from other cultures.

Irish travelers are found all over Ireland as well as parts of Britain and have an unfortunate level of notoriety in pop-culture. With roots in Catholicism, these travelers are often incorrectly referred to as 'gypsies' which is actually a term for Romani Gypsies, a separate nomadic group found across parts of Europe.


4. Bedouin

One of the largest nomadic communities in the world today, there is around 21 million Bedouin with a name that means 'desert dwellers' in Arabic. Their own language is considered to be one of the purest forms of Arabic and is part of a culture that, even those who have moved away from the nomadic lifestyle, try and maintain. A lot of their travel comes from a constant need to find new water sources as they have lived in the desert for over a millennium.

Image Source: via Pixabay

Income and trade come predominantly from goat and camel herding although more and more are being drawn away from this way of life by the modern world.


5. Qashqai

A pastoralist Turkic group of nomads now largely found in Iran, Qashqai speaks both their own language and Persian and has roots going back as far as the 11th century.

Many no longer engage with the nomadic side of their culture but they remain famed for their intricate weaving and rug making made from special Shiraz wool which is often brighter and softer than other wool products. There are various different tribes of Qashqai but overall they number about 1.5 million in total.


6. Tuareg

Wandering the Sahara desert, Tuareg is an Arabic word meaning 'abandoned by God'. Far from being lost, though, these people have developed an innate sense of astronomy as the cloudless desert nights allow them to navigate by star and observe the celestial bodies extremely well.

Dispersed mostly throughout Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, they live in matrilineal clans which give the women quite a high status in society, men being the ones that have to wear veils. Surviving in one f the most desolate places on Earth, the Tuareg have been around since about the 4th century.


7. Khoisan

Khoisan is actually a catch-all term that refers to two nomadic groups that travel across swathes of Africa. The San are bushmen who act as hunter-gatherers whereas the Khoi are pastoral and rely on herding as their livelihood. Until only a few centuries ago were they hunter-gatherers living off what the Kalahari desert had to offer them until herding became a more viable prospect.

In response to increasing modernization around them, the Khoisan have actually moved deeper into the desert in order to maintain their way of life.


8. Kuchi

Raising goats and sheep in order to survive, the Kuchi's migration patterns across Afghanistan were largely determined by what was thought best for the animals but these have been greatly affected by conflict in the region. 2.4 million exist today with around 1.5 million continuing the nomadic lifestyle. An integral part of Afghan society, even today, the Kuchi continue to thrive despite great hardships.


9. Tlingit

A hunter-gatherer nation that owns land between Alaska and British Columbia, they predominantly subsist on food such as fish, seal, and seaweed that come from their complex system of fisheries, food being an extremely important part of their culture. Like other indigenous peoples, their numbers were severely affected by disease brought by European settlers and most do not follow the old way of life.


10. Pokot

A pastoralist community who herd sheep, goats, and cows, the Pokot live in Uganda and Kenya and are noted for their intricate jewelry, bead work clothing. Spoken word is key to their culture and they have many proverbs revolving around their historic folklore and riddles as part of their education. With around 700,000 Pokot today they continue their nomadic ways, resisting the modern world as it is.


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