Bedou presents a number of difficulties for the geographer, but foremost is the problem of location. It has no boundary except that which is traced by its inhabitants in their incessant wandering. If there is a pattern in their travels it is undetectable by outsiders. Moreover, the sands upon which they move are as mobile as time itself.
The heat of the sun is so extreme that evolutionary processes have ensured the protection of the natives by rendering them nearly invisible to the eye. We see their tents, their manufactured goods, and even their dromidaries. Occasionally, we may even see a flutter of cloth that must surely contain a human form, but never a face or hand that would confirm the fact. When, by chance, they appear in the busy streets of cities, they are taken for shadows. If they have names they are kept from the ears of outsiders, though a name is the Bedou's most prized possession, and there is no honor of consequence greater than his own (see H.G. Wells, Outline of History, page 5, revised edition, 1949).
These phantoms are viewed by many people as being a little uncivilized, almost savages, but more likely they are philosophers and poets, and more likely they know better than to associate themselves with those who call themselves civilized. So what if their poetry concerns itself almost exclusively with love and war, and so what if their philosophy is simple and full of cartoonish romanticisms. And, when they attend the marketplaces, if there seems to be something uncanny in their business transactions we cannot in fairness say that we have not seen such practices within our own social concourse.
The women are the true puzzle, however. Only rarely do they come forward in public, and even when they do appear they remain always behind veils that carry the weight of law. Anthropologists say women hold the true power of the Bedou. Other reporters suggest women are no more than objects, prospering or not according to the whims of men and boys. Still, there is the matter of the gold; every woman, young or old, seems to have a good quantity of the precious metal adorning her neck, breast, or waist, while the only gold seen on a Bedou man is that which he has just acquired in a business transaction or liberated by force of arms.