The Last of the Famous International Nomads
While technomadism is growing, traditional nomadism is shrinking. Here’s a breakdown of some of today’s remaining itinerant peoples and their cultural traditions.
Main Regions: Romania, Central Europe, the Balkans
Modes of Transport: Horse-and-cart caravans
Forms of Shelter: Tents
Cultural Expertise or Exports: Music and musical instruments, such as the cymbalon; metals trading
Famed Foods: Mushrooms, nuts and other foraged foods; meat and garlic-laden stews
Fun Fact: The Romani built enormous mansions in post-Communist Europe while managing to avoid sedentary life.
Main Regions: Siberia, Russian Far East, Arctic Tundra
Mode of Transport: Reindeer sleighs
Form of Shelter: Yurt-like “chums” constructed from wood frames and reindeer hides
Cultural Expertise or Export: Reindeer antlers (used in a male-potency drug that is popular in China)
Famed Food: Reindeer steak
Fun Fact: Nenet folk traditions influenced the modern day cultural understanding of Santa Claus.
Language(s): English, Shelta, and other Irish dialects
Main Regions: Ireland, United States
Modes of Transport: Horse-and-cart caravans, mobile homes or trailers
Forms of Shelter: Mobile homes or trailers
Cultural Expertise or Exports: Horse training
Famed Foods: Coddle stew, scones
Fun Fact: Irish Traveler traditions formed the loose basis for the reality TV hit, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.
Main Regions: Mountainous areas of Morocco, Tunisia, and other North African countries
Modes of Transport: Camels, donkeys, and mules
Forms of Shelter: Clay or stone huts, goat-hair tents
Cultural Expertise or Export: Argan oil
Famed Foods: Couscous, tagine
Fun Fact: Former soccer star for France, Zinedine Zidane, has direct Kabyle Berber roots in Algeria.
Language(s): Inuktitut, Kalaallisut
Main Regions: Northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, northern Russia
Modes of Transport: Sealskin boats, dog sleds
Form of Shelter: Igloo
Cultural Expertise or Exports: Blubber, inukshuks (stone monuments or sculptures that serve as landmarks)
Famed Food: Raw seal meat
Fun Fact: Bjork has famed Inuit throat-singer Tanya Tagaq to partially thank for her unique sound as the two have collaborated and toured extensively.
Language(s): Arabic and Arabic dialects
Main Region: Middle East deserts
Mode of Transport: Camels
Form of Shelter: Tents
Cultural Expertise or Export: Woven rugs
Famed Foods: Pita breads, camel-milk cheese
Fun Fact: The concept of ‘trial by fire’ originated with one of the first lie detection tests, the Bedouin ritual of Bisha’a.
For more, check out this feature on the growing trend of technomadism.
Illustrations by Eric R. Mortensen.
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