A brief history of the Bedouin or stretch tent
The basic structure we call “tent" has been around for centuries.
It was intrinsic to the earliest forms of nomadism and has been a source of shelter for centuries – from the traditional Bedouin tents to the Roman tent cities that became real cities, the Viking tents that could be deployed even inside their boats and the Mongolian yurta, which referred to both the land on which the camp was struck and the tents itself. The Mughal dynasty introduced the structure to India, while the Ottoman Turks became famous for their tent-building skills. An example of an Ottoman Turk tent, dating to the late 17th century, is preserved in the Real Armeria in Madrid. In North America, the Native Americans built wigwams and tepees; these tents became bigger with the introduction of horses in the 16th century.
The Bedouin traditionally was made from either goat or camel hair, measured about three by four metres and had a rectangular base. It was divided into two distinct areas, one public and the other private.
The public area was used to welcome and entertain guests and was found on the left side of the entrance. The private area, to the right of the entrance, was reserved for women and other members of the family. The Bedouin was famed for their hospitality and the sight of a Bedouin village was a sight for sore eyes for many a desert traveller.
Today’s Bedouin tents also go by the name of stretch tents. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are waterproof, made from technologically advanced fabrics.
They can be tailored to any occasion – popular uses of stretch tents include weddings, birthday parties, launches, children’s parties, outdoor get-togethers such as spitbraais, fairs and shows, semi-permanent places like beer gardens and coffee shops, religious gatherings and markets. In fact, the only limitation to what you can use one of these tents for is your imagination. They add more than just shelter – they create atmosphere and are suited to any theme.
Yet today’s Bedouin tents still have one great thing in common with the original desert tents – they play host to generous hospitality and are famed for making people feel welcome.