Sleb - Orientation

Identification. These ethnonyms are applied to a little-known, endogamous, and traditionally itinerant community practicing a variety of low-status occupations and living in large parts of the Arab Middle East. It is not clear to what extent the term "Sleb" is a generic one, but it does embrace distinct and preferentially endogamous groups. Although they perform many needful services for the pastoral population of the area, the Sleb are held in great contempt. Owing to the combination of an itinerant life-style and low status, they have often been termed "Gypsies" and have been mentioned by a host of travelers and researchers in different parts of Arabia.

Location. A peripatetic people, the Sleb live and migrate in the Syrian desert, in Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. In the late twentieth century, however, many have become sedentary.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Sleb do not appear to speak any language other than Arabic.

Demography. Around 1898, the entire Sleb population was estimated at about 3,000 individuals; another estimate, made a few years later for a part of the Syrian desert (between Palmyra and Suchne) was 1,700 individuals. Ottoman records indicate that there were about 500 Sleb in the region of Mosul.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: