The British colony with its capital at Syrtis Major imported thousands of ‘indentured labourers’ – often little more than slaves. A number of Bedouin were brought to assist expeditions into the desert, but they found it relatively easy to escape. They were joined by some Africans, Indians and others, so that the Bedouin of Mars are not entirely Arabic in origin.
The Bedouin’s religion is a mixture of Islam with various folk traditions. A distinctive feature is that their priesthood, called Reverend Mothers, are entirely female.
They identify strongly with the ancient Israelites, whose escape from captivity and wandering in the desert resemble their own history. They associate the Promised Land with fanciful stories of Earth, towards which they face in prayer (no doubt they originally conceived of this as facing towards Mecca; but the name of that city has been lost to them).