An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 2
by Ian Heath

[Based on the manuscript from The pilgrimage of Arnold von Harff in 1496 to 1499]
or woodcut


This figure, again based on a drawing by Arnold von Harff, depicts a typical Bedouin, whom von Harff describes as 'a rough, blackish, hard people [who] ride with bare legs and bare feet in the stirrups'. He adds that they wore robes with wide sleeves and a round hat of rough crimson wool' with a linen turban that 'fell down on each side', presumably meaning that it passed under the chin in the usual Bedouin fashion, even though his picture does not show this. Their arms he gives as a lance ('a long, hollow tube having an iron point', ie. made of cane) and a shield, described as 'round, according to their custom, convex at the centre, whence came a thick point of iron', surrounded by a silk fringe. Cane lances such as von Harff records were light and resilient (Gilbert de Lannoy describes them as 'flexible'), the best coming from Persia. They were usually some 10-12 feet in length and often had a second, slightly smaller blade at the butt-end, which otherwise normally terminated in a small metal ball. Brocquière, for instance, describes the lances of 2 Bedouin he encountered near Samaria as 'long, thin poles shod at the ends with iron, one of which was pointed, the other round but having many sharp blades' (presumably meaning it was spiked). A long, straight-bladed sword would have been carried too, slung from the [left] shoulder as depicted in Raschid al-Din's pictures.

Bedouin turbans and shirts were invariably white, though coloured or striped topcoats were often worn, Persian mss. usually showing these in a range of colours that included most shades of red, blue, brown and green. These same mss. often show Bedouin fighting from camels, de Lannoy recording that the Bedouin of Syria and Egypt similarly still rode camels as well as horses.

Other Illustrations of Bedouin Arab Costume & Soldiers