Ghorbat - Settlements



The Ghorbat had two basic types of settlements—camps and houses. Nearly half of the itinerant families spent five to seven months in houses and the rest of the year in tents; fewer than 10 percent lived in camps throughout the year. Ghorbat tents were formerly stitched by the women; since the 1960s, however, they have been bought at intervals of three to four years and were, in principle, indistinguishable from the white canvas cloth tents used by other peripatetics, as well as by migrant labor in Afghanistan. Each tent was occupied by a nuclear family and surrounded by a low mud-and-stone wall, which helped keep out rain. Although a camp could include up to twenty-six tents, the commonest were those with two tents; whatever their number, the tents were positioned in such a manner as to leave some space free for communal use in the middle of the site. In all circumstances, the back flap of each tent was visible from at least one other tent. This was a security measure—household goods and equipment were stored in the back quarter of tents. Depending on the size and the duration of the camp, up to seven temporary structures could be constructed by the Ghorbat on their campsites. These were for common use and included a garbage pit, a place for prayer, and sometimes an oven for baking bread. Camping regions did not vary over the years, but precise camping sites depended in rural areas on the availability of fallow fields, as well as on the requirements of a family's eventual pack animals. In the vicinity of towns, government wastelands were used as campsites, but after 1975 camping in these areas was prohibited, and it was increasingly difficult to find suitable sites. Houses inhabited by the Ghorbat usually belonged to a group member. These houses were situated in specific areas of some of the larger towns, and always several families lived in two or more contiguous houses. Architecturally, these houses were not substantially different from neighboring ones occupied by non-Ghorbat.

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