The tribes of nomadic herders occupying the Shadowlands desert of northwest Qaiyore refer to themselves as the Bedu, which in their tongue means wanderer. They are dark-skinned with wiry, black hair. They generally have long, narrow noses, angular cheekbones and wide round eyes. Bedu live a harsh existence, surviving in one of Qaiyore's most unforgiving areas. Their material culture is limited. The main possesions of the Bedu are their tents and the cattle central to their nomadic lifestyle.
Bedu tents are low, rectangular black constructions woven from the thick fur of their cattle. A line of poles supports the center of the tent. The wealthier a Bedu is, the longer her tent will be. The sides of the tent may be rolled up to let breezes in, or tightly closed during rain, or windstorms. The tents are divided into rooms by decorative partitions called gatas.
Bedu society subsists primarily by herding the thickly furred yak-like camel native to the Shadowlands. They migrate constantly searching for water and arable land. Bedu clans travel to the desert edges during the hot, dry summer and back into the desert during the rainy season. Territories are divided along tribal and clan lines and their boundaries are clearly defined and known to all.
Dairy products are the main food source for the Bedu people. Milk from their cattle is made into yogurt and butter. Round loaves of unleavened bread made from coarse, stone-ground wheat are served when available. Dates and other fruit found in desert oases are eaten for dessert. Meat is only served on special occasions, such as marriage feasts, ceremonial events, or when guests are present. During such times, a young goat, camel, or lamb is slaughtered and roasted.
To endure the extreme heat of the Shadowlands desert, the Bedu wear clothing made of lightweight, light colored fabric. It is very loose-fitting, allowing for the circulation of air and freedom of movement, yet providing protection from the sun and windblown sand. Their garments are designed to cover the entire body, except for the face, hands, and feet. The main garment is the cotton thawb, which is a long, staight-cut robe. A silk or cotton jacket called a kibr is worn over the thawb. The kibr is open in the front and secured with leather belts.
Although the Bedu claim tribal divisions, there is no true political structure among them higher than the clan. Bedu clans consist of a matriarch, the oldest living female member of the clan, and her extended family. The matriarch is responsible for the health and safety of the clan and she holds an enormous amount of power. She leads the clan on their migratory route through the desert, must approve all marriages, is the judge and jury of all disputes within the clan, and so on.
Bedu women usually live with a clan their whole lives, living in their mother's tent until they marry. Men live a far more roving lifestyle. When a boy reaches the age of 13 or 14, he generally leaves the clan he was born to. He undergoes a rite of passage and either strikes out on his own or leaves with a passing band of likewise clanless men. He remains clanless until he can raise enough wealth to marry, usually by raiding desert caravans and neighboring tribes.