The Qashqa'i (pronounced Gosh-guy-ee)
nomads of Iran are Turkic-speaking shepherds. They live in the harsh
deserts of the Zagros mountains of Fars province in southwestern
Iran. Some Qashqa'i can be found in the cities of Shiraz, Firuzabad,
Kazerun, Farrashband, Equlidabad, Abadeh and Semiron. This people
group has been extremely isolated with their twice annual migration
200-350 miles from summer to winter pastures. As they pass near
Shiraz, the major city in southwest Iran, there is exposure to other
cultures. Shiraz has also become the center of Qashqa'i political
and economic affairs. Shiraz lies between the summer and winter
pastures, which lie south and north of the city, and most Qashqa'i
migrate past the city twice annually. Many Qashqa'i have moved from
Iran and have been identified in the USA, England, Germany, Canada,
India, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Austria and the United Arab
The Qashqa'i began entering
Iran from central Asia in the 11th century AD. Little information is
available on the Qashqa'i until the mid-18th century when Karim Khan
Zand, ruler of the southern part of Iran, appointed a Qashqa'i as
tribal leader of a province. The Qashqa'i name means "those of a
horse with a white-starred forehead" or "those who
The Qashqa'i remain a
separate people and are one of many minority groups in Iran. The
tribes have diverse linguistic and cultural roots but refer to
themselves as "Turks." The 1998 Ethnologue estimates their current
population to be 1.5 million. There are 5 large tribes that make up
the Qashqa'i federation (Amaleh, Darrehshuri, Kashkuli-Bozorg, Farsi
Madan & Shish Boluki). Each tribe consists of a number of named
subgroups (taifeh), which are represented by headmen and have their
own traditional areas of winter and summer pastures. Alternate
spellings are Kashkai, Kashgai, Ghashgai, Ghashghai, Ghashghaie,
Qashqay or Qashqai.
language, which is unwritten, is linguistically similar to Azeri
(Azerbaijani). Most of the Qashqa'i can communicate in Farsi which
is the national language of Iran. The Qashqa'i call their language
QASHQAI POLITICAL SITUATION
There have been
many efforts by the Iranian government to limit the nomadic
life-style of the Qashqa'i. Many have settled and no longer migrate,
but many of the people still are nomads and remain isolated away
nomadic way of life is supported primarily by the raising of sheep
and goats. The wool from the sheep is sold annually and the extra
cheese, curds and dairy products also provide a source of income.
Camels and donkeys are being replaced more and more by trucks to
carry the tents and other gear during migration. Crops such as
barley and wheat are raised to provide additional food for the
people and the herds.
The women are talented weavers and
produce distinctive rugs both for their own use and to sell. These
carpets are used to decorate the rectangular black Qashqa'i tents.
The women wear long floral-print dresses and cover their heads with
colorful scarves that let some hair show. In Iranian cities, the
Qashqa'i women dress like other women but show their bright dresses
a few inches below the black chador. Qashqa’i marriages, which link
the camps and herding groups together, are arranged by the women.
Qashqa'i men make the decisions regarding migration and business
transactions. Some of the men still wear the traditional Qashqa'i
gray felt two-eared hats. The men are good horsemen and marksmen.
Qashqa'i children are taught in Farsi by teachers who live and
travel with the families.
Qashqa'i are Shia Muslims. In national political struggles, the
leaders have been allies of the Muslim clergy in Shiraz, Tehran and
Najaf (Iraq). They do follow Muslim traditions during the rites of
marriage, death and sacrifice animals on occasion. Very few Qashqa'i
observe daily prayers, however, and do not fast during Ramadan, the
month of fasting by Muslims.