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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.

While technomadism is growing, traditional nomadism is shrinking. Here’s a breakdown of some of today’s remaining itinerant peoples and their cultural traditions.

ROMANI


Language(s): Romani

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.

NENETS

Language(s): Nenets

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.

IRISH TRAVELERS

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.

BERBERS

Language(s): Tamazight

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.

INUIT

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.

BEDOUINS

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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