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Charles Gleyre, Three Fellahs (fr. Trois fellahs), 1835
"Fille Fellahin." A Victorian-era postcard of a young Fellahin girl of Egypt.

Fellah (Arabic: فلاح‎, fallāḥ) (plural Fellaheen or Fellahin, فلاحين, fallāḥīn) is a peasant, farmer or agricultural laborer in the Middle East and North Africa. The word derives from the Arabic word for ploughman or tiller.

A fellahin could be seen wearing a simple cotton robe called galabieh. The word Galabieh originated around 1715–25 and derived from the Egyptian Arabic word gallabīyah.


  • Origins and usage 1
  • Fellahin in Egypt 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Origins and usage

Fellahin was the term used throughout the Middle East in the Ottoman period and later to refer to villagers and farmers.[1] Nur-eldeen Masalha translates it as "peasants,"[2] although Palestinian anthropologist Nasser Abufarha says that translation misrepresents Palestinian fellahin society, because traditional European usage refers to someone who does not own the land they farm, whereas the fellahin of Palestine own the land, and the means of production, together.[3]

Fellahin were distinguished from the effendi, or, land-owning class,[4] although the fellahin in this region might be tenant farmers, smallholders, or live in a village that owned the land communally.[5][6] Others applied the term fellahin only to landless workers.[7] The term fallahin applied to Christian, Druze, Jewish and Muslim villagers.[8] The term fallah was applied to people from several regions in the Middle East, including those of Egypt and Cyprus.

Fellahin in Egypt

Comprising 60% of the Egyptian population,[9] 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.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Mahdi, Kamil A.; Würth, Anna; Lackner, Helen (2007). Yemen Into the Twenty-First Century: Continuity and Change. Garnet & Ithaca Press. p. 209. 
  2. ^ Masalha, Nur (2005). Catastrophe Remembered: Palestine, Israel and the Internal Refugees: Essays in Memory of Edward W. Said (1935-2003). Zed Books. p. 78. 
  3. ^ Abufarha, Nasser (2009). The Making of a Human Bomb: An Ethnography of Palestinian Resistance. Durham: Duke University Press. p. 29.  
  4. ^ State Lands and Rural Development in mandatory Palestine, 1920–1948, Warwick P. N. Tyler, Sussex Academic Press, 2001, p. 13
  5. ^ Hillel Cohen, Army of Shadows, Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917–1948, University of California Press, 2008, p. 32
  6. ^ Healing the Land and the Nation: Malaria and the Zionist Project in Palestine, 1920–1947, Sandra Marlene Sufian, University of Chicago Press, 2007, p. 57
  7. ^ Lords of the Lebanese Marches: Violence and Narrative in an Arab Society, Michael Gilsenan, I.B.Tauris, 2003, p. 13
  8. ^ Smith, George Adam (1918). Syria and the Holy Land. Doran company. p. 41. 
  9. ^ Who are the Fellahin? – Biot #312: December 24, 2005. SEMP, Inc.
  10. ^ Faraldi, Caryll (11–17 May 2000). "A genius for hobnobbing". Al-Ahram Weekly. 

External links

  • Egypt's forgotten fellahin
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