A meeting of Indigenous Cultures: Eight Similarities Between the Māori and Bedouin-Emirati Peoples

Updated: Aug 30

Date: 14 July 2021


The converging Indigenous pathways delivered by Te Aratini will over time, produce an international platform of knowledge, accessing ancestral wisdoms and reigniting connections that will grow in years to come.

Te Aratini 2021 will bring together as ‘hosts’ of this inaugural event the Māori and Bedouin-Emirati peoples of their respective countries - Aotearoa New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. Both these Indigenous peoples share many similarities in their culture, customs and ways of being.


  • Māori and Bedouin occupy a similar percentage of their nation’s total populations – approximately 17% for Māori and 20% for those of Bedouin decent.

  • Māori and Bedouin greet each other, and others, in very similar ways. The Māori hongi (touching of noses) looks much like the Bedouin mukhashamah, and both express Indigenous values of unity and trust through the sharing of breath.

  • Kaimoana or seafood is important to both Māori and Bedouin. Despite the stereotype of the Bedouin existing in a desert environment, coastal fishing has in fact been central to their culture for thousands of years - as it has for Māori.

  • Star navigation and astronomy is vitally important to both Indigenous cultures. For Māori and their tupuna (ancestors), star navigation was key to the multiple journeys of their ocean-going waka (canoes) across Moana-nui-a-Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean). And, once they arrived in Aotearoa astrological signs and the Maramataka (lunar cycle) played a central role in the cultural identity and day to day life of hapū and iwi. For Bedouin, their daily equivalent to Māori waka were (and still are) their camels or "ships of the desert". Many Bedouin travelled across the vast interiors at night and as for Māori, Bedouin have relied on the stars and the moon's lunar cycle for navigation since ancient times. They also used stars as cues to mark events on their calendars and for storytelling.

  • The Bedouin are traditionally divided into tribes or clans, just as Māori identify to their iwi, hapū and whānau. Despite modernisation this traditional tribal structure for the Bedouin and Māori has been retained, and they both express their Indigenous cultural identity through poetry, dance, oral tradition, oral histories, and storytelling.

  • Traditional and cultural cooking methods for both Māori and Bedouin are also alike. For centuries Bedouin have cooked their food underground in earth and sand ovens, whilst Māori have kept the tradition alive of cooking their food underground in earth ovens or hāngī, for specific events.

  • Tattoo - Ta Moko and Moko Kauae are very important to both cultures. Both Māori and Bedouin have engaged in the art of facial and body tattooing, and it has been centrally embedded in their cultures for centuries. In recent years tattoo in Bedouin culture has been less pervasive as the modern cultural norms of Middle Eastern Muslim practices gain precedence, however after the restrictive impacts of colonisation for Māori, ta moko and moko kauae has been through a renaissance and is now very much normalised once again.

  • Preparing for war through dance and song has always been important to both cultures and for Māori haka specific to whānau, hapū and iwi was often used to prepare for battle. For Bedouin, the Al-Ayyala (Yowalah) was the dance song used before and after battle. The Al-Ayyala was successfully recorded on UNESCOs Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage Items of Humanity in November 2014


Bedouin and Māori cultures are centred around hospitality, kindness, generosity and support – Karama and Manaakitanga. In November 2021 both of these Indigenous peoples look forward to welcoming visitors to Te Aratini for a festival of ideas, connections, and the sharing of knowledge centred around culture, commerce, community and conservation.