Language Issue
Camels in Tunisian Proverbs
Camels in Tunisian Proverbs
Issue 54

Abdel Karim Al Brahmi, Tunisia

The study and analysis of Tunisian folk proverbs related to camels is an examination of Tunisia’s folk heritage, which has been transmitted through the generations verbally. This legacy enables the identification of features of the cultural identity and characteristics of an important part of Tunisia’s population, especially in its central and southern areas. It helps to identify Tunisian customs and traditions as well as Tunisian economic, social and political conditions.

The interest in Tunisian folk proverbs is part of the growing awareness of the importance of oral folk culture as one of the main branches of Tunisian culture, and the integration of the individual and society. The study of folk proverbs contributes to a deeper understanding of identity and cultural openness towards ‘the Other’. Folk culture plays an important role in helping us understand the dynamics of the contemporary world, and this enables us to understand reality. It plays a role in changing mentalities and guiding human behaviour and perceptions.

This paper attempts to study samples of Tunisian folk proverbs that mention camels, most of which belong to the Bedouin rural heritage. The presence of camels in folk proverbs and in folk oral tradition in general reveals how important these animals were to people’s daily lives.

Through its central presence in folk traditions, the camel helps to preserve a culture that may die out as its role in people’s lives diminishes.

I have tried to provide a glossary of some Tunisian folk proverbs that are related to camels, to define the concept of the folk proverb and its structural characteristics, and to provide a study of folk proverbs linguistically, socially and culturally by comparing certain Tunisian proverbs to other Arab ones.

The study of Tunisian folk proverbs that mention camels confirms the importance of their content and diversity; they include various social, economic, cultural, religious, and environmental features. 

The camel is a cultural, social and economic symbol. It is a cultural symbol because it represents a nomadic way of life. It is a social symbol because of the behaviour and morals it represents and the rituals that are associated with it. It is an economic symbol of Bedouin life in general.

In fact, the camel’s position has declined and it has lost its value in daily life as a result of the acceleration of the transformations experienced by Tunisian society. However, it perseveres in the people’s imagination and in the collective memory through material and oral cultural heritage, especially in folk proverbs that reveal the richness of the culture and the diversity of the rituals and practices associated with camels.

It is interesting to note that most of the folk proverbs that mention camels are not peculiar to Tunisian society. They express social values prevalent in Arab culture in general, and this is reflected in the similarities among folk proverbs in many Arab countries.