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Volume 26, Number 3May/June 1975

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Arab Jamboree

Written and photographed by Khalil Abou El Nasr

They came from the Atlantic coast of Morocco, the Mediterranean shores of Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, the banks of the Nile and the forests of the Sudan, the mountains of Lebanon, the cities of Syria and Iraq, the plains of Jordan, the oasis towns of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, the island of Bahrain, and the ports of Yemen, Oman and the Arabian Gulf. Some 1700 boys and 500 girls from nearly every country in the Arab world converged on Lebanon last August for the Eleventh Arab Boy Scout and Fifth Arab Girl Guide jamboree.

The Boy Scouts' camp was at Smar-Jubail, about 37 miles north of Beirut, in a newly built "Scout City" on a 60-acre hillside that will become a permanent site for sports events and future meetings of this kind. The Girl Guides camped near a lovely 18th-century Lebanese town with the romantic name of Deir al-Qamar—"Monastery of the Moon"—in the mountains some 25 miles southeast of Beirut. The boys and girls got together for the opening day of the jamboree, which lasted 10 days for the Boy Scouts and eight days for the Girl Guides.

Although the participants were all Arabs, there was probably as much variety among them as there would be, say, at an all-Europe or all-America Scout jamboree. Each delegation took a lively interest in the special activities and displays of the others. The Boy Scout band of the city of Horns in Syria drew the crowds with its lively brass and drums. Dancing ranged from the communal, arm-linked dabkeh of Lebanon, Syria and Palestine to the mock-fierce ardhah, a sword dance of the Arabian Gulf. The Saudi Arabian Scouts dispensed old-time Arab hospitality in the form of bitter Bedouin coffee, sweet tea and dates. The Kuwaitis scored with a performance on a bagpipe made of a goatskin, white a scion of the United Arab Emirates played on an ancient horn made of wood and metal. The delegates exchanged local sweets and other refreshments, and among the most popular displays were the national costumes of each country.

Traditional, worldwide Scouting activities were not neglected. The raising and lowering of national flags, marching contests, bugle-blowing, bonfires, sports, handicraft classes and displays were all part of the show.

The Lebanese hosts were not remiss in their hospitality. Both the President and the Prime Minister of Lebanon attended the opening ceremony, along with about 15,000 other people, including members of the Cabinet and of the diplomatic corps. Delegates were taken on sightseeing tours—transportation by courtesy of the Lebanese Army—to such famous sites as the Cedars of Lebanon, the Roman ruins of Baalbek and the ancient Phoenician port of Sidon. The Lebanese University arranged field trips and lectures on ecology and the protection of the environment. The Lebanese Civil Defense provided medical back-up for the Scouts' own specialty of first aid.

On the last day of the jamboree, the delegates exchanged gifts, home addresses and promises to write—or perhaps even to visit. Thus the jamboree fulfilled one of the aims of Scouting—to cement friendships and international understanding—in a region that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf.

Khalil Abou El-Nasr has contributed photographs to Time and other publications and appears regularly in Aramco World.

This article appeared on pages 20-25 of the May/June 1975 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.


Check the Public Affairs Digital Image Archive for May/June 1975 images.