Raising goats and sheep, many Qashqa'i (pronounced "cash-guy-EE") migrate as much as 300 miles annually between summer and winter pastures. Because of government restrictions on their migratory route, some Qashqa'i have settled and raise wheat, barley and other crops to feed their goats and sheep, while others have found employment in cities.
Camels and donkeys are kept by some Qashqa'i to carry their tents and other gear during migration, although trucks and motorcycles are becoming more common. Generally 10 to 12 families migrate together about four months out of every year (two to three months traveling between summer and winter camps).
Each of these migrating groups is part of a larger tribe within the Qashqa'i. Each group is represented by its own headmen and has traditional areas of winter and summer pastures. Children up to age 12 attend tent schools, with the teacher and the round white school tent migrating with the families.
Until recently, this people group was extremely isolated from the rest of the world. Improved roads and increasing settlement in villages have made the Qashqa'i more open to other cultures. A minority group in Iran, the Qashqa'i have remained independent and proud, despite government attempts to force them to abandon their nomadic lifestyle and become part of the mainstream of Iranian life.
Qashqa'i women are known for their colorful clothing, which includes multi-layered skirts, bright tunics and scarves. Although the women cover their heads, they let their hair show. In Iranian cities they dress like other women, but show their colorful dress a few inches below their black chador. The women are equally well known for their weaving. Using natural dyes and wool from their sheep, they weave colorful and intricate patterned rugs at their summer and winter camps. They even have looms that can be disassembled and carried with them when they are migrating.
Least evangelized megapeople in the world
Qashqa'i have little use for organized religion except for political purposes. Because they have had scarce contact with Islamic institutions and devout Muslims, few are practicing Muslims.
They have also had practically no exposure to Christianity. With no Christians, no churches, no Bible (the Qashqa'i language is unwritten), no Christian broadcasting and no missionaries working among them, they have had little chance of hearing the gospel. An estimated six percent are evangelized due to contact with Armenian Christians in Shiraz (a major city in southwest Iran) and Tehran (the capital).
The Qashqa'i are the least evangelized megapeople in the world.
||1 to 2 million
||Nominal Shia Muslims
||Their "heart language" is a Turkic dialect which is unwritten, yet closely related to Azerbaijani; most Qashqa'i speak Farsi, the national language of Iran
||Primarily in the harsh deserts and Zagros mountains across southwestern Iran; also in key Iranian cities including Shiraz, Firouzabad, Farrashband, Kazerun, Abadeh and Semirom
||Possibly 6 percent
Traditionally, women arrange marriages between families, which helps link camps and herding groups together.
Once the marriage has been arranged, the bride and her family are notified several days ahead of time and then the groom's family arrives and "kidnaps" the bride. She is then taken to the camp of her intended husband, where, without being seen by him, she is placed in a tent where her female relatives assist her in preparing for the ceremony. The marriage ceremonies last for several days and include food, music and dancing.
A flier on CBF missions among the Qashqa'i is available. To order, call toll-free at (888) 801-4CBF (4223).