Fellah (Arabic: فلاح fallāḥ; feminine فَلَّاحَةٌ fallāḥatun; plural fellaheen or fellahin, فلاحين, fallāḥīn) is a farmer or agricultural laborer in the Middle East and North Africa. The word derives from the Arabic word for "ploughman" or "tiller".
Origins and usage
Fellahin were distinguished from the effendi (land-owning class), although the fellahin in this region might be tenant farmers, smallholders, or live in a village that owned the land communally. Others applied the term fellahin only to landless workers. The term fallahin refers to non-Arabians, Kurds, Arameans, and Armenian villagers in the Middle East. The term fallah was applied to people from several regions in the Middle East, including those of Egypt and Cyprus.
Fellahin in Egypt
When the Arabs conquered Egypt, they called the common peasant indigenous people (Copts) fellahin (peasants) due to their work in agriculture different from the Jews who were traders and the Greeks (Rum in Arabic) who were the ruling class . With the passage of time the name took on an ethnic character, when Egyptian Arab tribes call someone else fellah it is synonymous with "indigenous Egyptian" to some extent. Another thought is that when a Christian Egyptian converted to Islam he was called 'falih' which means winner or victorious, which means that he succeeded in abandoning Christianity and converting to Islam.
Note: Most of urban Egyptians are considered Fellahin too but they see the term fellahin as an offensive title so they prefer to call themselves Masriin (Egyptians) instead.
Comprising 60% of the Egyptian population, the fellahin lead humble lives and continue to live in mud-brick houses like their ancient ancestors. Their percentage was much higher in the early 20th century, before the large influx of Egyptian fellahin into urban towns and cities. In 1927, anthropologist Winifred Blackman, author of The Fellahin of Upper Egypt, conducted ethnographic research on the life of Upper Egyptian farmers and concluded that there were observable continuities between the cultural and religious beliefs and practices of the fellahin and those of ancient Egyptians.
- Bedouin, nomadic people from roughly the same region
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