Today while checking the analytics for my website I saw that a google search had lead someone to my site (in vain) trying to find the answer to the above question.
Why do Bedouin use socks in the desert?
I feel bad! This is one question I haven't been asked before and have not previously addressed : D.
I thought I would write a quick post in the hope the person searching for the answer to this pressing question will see it, or perhaps that there are others also puzzling over the mystery of sock wearing Bedouin people...
The answer actually comes back to Islam or that its winter ; P. After all we get cold feet too!
The most likely reason though is connected to making Salat - prayer. Muslims have five formal prayers that we make everyday and for those prayers we must have a valid "wuthoo".
Wuthoo is a special ritual wash that you make before prayer. In the ritual you begin by saying "Bismillah" (in the name of God) then you wash each hand three times (right first). Followed by your mouth, nose and face three times (in that order). Then your hands and forearms (right first), three times. Then you wipe over your hair and around your ears once. Lastly you wash each foot three times (right first).
After washing the "wuthoo" will remain in place until the person does something to "break" the "wuthoo/ wash". There are different things which break ones wuthoo, such as going to sleep, going to the bathroom, breaking wind, being intimate with ones wife/husband, or passing some kind of bodily fluid from the mouth or other place like pus, vomit or blood. The most you would need to make wuthoo is five times, but as long as you don't do anything to break the wuthoo potentially you would only need to make it once each day. In reality most people will make wuthoo 3-5 times each 24 hrs.
When you live as a nomad in the desert water is limited and because Islam is a religion of ease there are ways you can reduce the water you need to make your wuthoo before you make your prayers. There is also a non water version of wuthoo (taynanum) but this is only used if you have no access to water at all.
One of the things you can do to reduce the water you need to make wuthoo is to make wuthoo in full once and then put socks onto your feet. As long as you then don't take the socks off your feet will remain clean for up to 24 hours and then you only need to wipe your hand over the socks when you make wuthoo, rather than washing each foot three times as a part of the regular washing ritual.
In winter when water is cold and keeping warm is imperative to people living in the natural environment, or when you are living as a nomad with limited water, being able to use socks to reduce the amount of water used to make wuthoo is a blessing and a practice you will see many Bedouin continue to use.
In winter you can organise when you wash your feet. For example you would make the full version of wuthoo before the midday prayer when it is warm. Then you put your socks on and for the next 24 hrs including the early morning prayer at dawn (when it is very cold), you can avoid washing your feet.
I hope this demystifies the feature of sock wearing Bedouins...