Touareg the nomads of the Sahara desert
Touareg is a word of Arabic origin, which means “inhabitant of Fezzan.” The Tuaregs are a nomadic ethnic group that lives in the Sahara desert and has Berber origins.
Undoubtedly they are very fascinating and are the most characteristic in the desert. Their nomadic tradition has gradually faded with the passing of the centuries. Yet many of them live in camps in various areas of the Sahara desert.
Touareg, the blue people
Often referring to them, we hear about the blue people. This is due to the fact that Touareg men traditionally cover their faces with a blue handkerchief. Their silhouette is famous, the classic image consists of a Touareg who rides his dromedary wrapped in his blue clothes against the sand dunes.
But who are the Touareg?
The Touareg descend from the Berber ethnic group, and their origin is practically unknown. We know that they are considered the real rulers of the desert. Despite being dominated by the French, there are still many doubts about whether this really happened. Or at least it’s true to the end. In fact, the Touareg opposed to the French an extreme resistance fighting the oppressor valiantly.
Once the colonization for the Touareg is over, a difficult period begins, and this is perhaps the time when their decline begins. The states that have formed in the meantime create frontiers and prevent free movement. For a nomadic tribes of the Sahara, this means losing their identity.
Islam has been the Touareg religion for many centuries. But there are many differences between their Islam and what we know in Arab countries or other African regions. To tell the truth, always it is complex to talk about religion and society when religion is Islam.
The fact is that the populations that practice the Islamic belief make it the base that permeates their whole existence. In short, religion establishes the rules of society. So usually in these communities, the woman has a secondary role and submission to her husband.
The surprising thing is that for the Touareg things are not like that, traditions have a key role in their community.
The traditions of the Touareg
Despite the strong push of some religious communities that wanted to impose the Koran, the Touareg have always made their millennial tradition prevail. Today they are almost totally Islamic, but the social rules take into account the millenary traditions.
The most obvious and in some ways shocking, is the fact that women see certain rights recognized.
The Touareg family
The family is the lowest level of Touareg society. Here we see all the differences with classical Islam. Women and men can have sex with other partners both before and after marriage.
With marriage, the woman brings the tent and all the furniture as a dowry. The place of the curtain will be the origin area of the man. Instead, the man will have to pay the woman’s family with a number of camels. It is an agreement between the groom and the bride’s family before marriage.
I already know what you are thinking, “the smart man like that when he gets tired of hunting and holding the tent.” No, gentlemen, the man will go away from home to be good and can only go and live with other women; typically mother and sisters. And the woman as already said will be able to do what she wants.
We must pay attention and look at this tradition with the right look. This is a union between two people who show respect for each other through symbolic gestures.
Among the Touareg is the man who wears the veil on the face, while women wear it only on the head and around the face. Spouses traditionally have to belong to the same caste.
Oh, I forgot, although Islam allows polygamy the Touareg are monogamous.
How do the Touareg live?
The Touareg live on dromedary breeding that they have been able to turn into a pet. The dromedary is a strong animal and very resistant to the terrible temperatures of the Sahara desert. These animals also provide them with a good amount of useful milk to support children. Moreover, they trade with the various extreme regions of the desert favoring city-to-city transactions. They do it just by using the tireless dromedaries.
The Touareg society
That of the Touareg is a very hierarchical society, at the lowest level we find the family that is common to all social classes. Immediately above we find the clan, higher up the tribe and above all the confederations.
Within this society, we find castes. Caste helps a lot to understand this complex society. The three main ones in order of importance are the nobles, the vassals, and finally, the slaves.
The nobles dominate over everything and also received tributes from the vassals. The vassals are mostly shepherds who can raise their animals but not the camels that belong to the nobles. The slave caste derives from war tributes paid by sub-Saharan tribes. Today a good part of these slaves have emancipated themselves. The traditional form of slavery
Tea in the desert, things to try at least once in your life.
The Tuareg are the repositories of a tradition of religious origin but very beautiful, the tea ceremony. It serves as a good omen for travelers who meet them. This ceremony actually has very introspective aspects. Touareg believes that tea is a source of meditation and elevation of the spirit. They believe that the boiling whistle of the teapot makes the souls calm and the mind free.
The ceremony begins with the preparation of the fire in the sand on which the teapot is then placed. Tea is prepared in three distinct phases and therefore, quite difficult, but time does not exist in the desert. In the first phase, they use a very bitter and strong tea, this phase is called “the tea of death.” The second phase, a slightly sweeter but still slightly bitter tea is used, and this phase is called “the tea of life.”
In the last phase, they use very sweet tea with an intense and engaging taste, it is called “the tea of love.”
Finally the Tea is served whith a particulary technic, the teapot is held aloft and the tea thus falls from a certain distance into the cup. The consequence is the formation of a foam in the tea, and it is mandatary.
The tea in the desert is a unique sensory experience, in addition to fairytale location and fascinating people. Part of this experience is even the absence of noise. A desert is a place where the only sound you can hear is the wind. So you can imagine an immense desolate land, full of dunes and you in the middle sitting down with a Touareg at the sunset time, drinking the desert tea! It is dream or not?
What are you waiting for? Did you also want to go and meet the Touareg?
But before it, please pay attention to the dangers of the Sahara regions. Better consult the embassies of the various countries before embarking on the journey. Then try to rely on serious operators with proven experience. Some areas are crossed by conflicts and are very dangerous.
Some helpfull links
To find right informations about the countries that you want to visit is difficult sometimes. So is better you take information to ambassies in your country. Anoter global help can be the CIA website where you can find info about any country you want. As example if you need info about Algeria you can look at this page of Cia about Algeria. In the page you will find link for tourim informations.