Southwest Sahara

The Tuareg

The original nomad warriors of the Sahara, the self-dubbed Imashaghen ('noble and free') are a branch of the Berber people, the indigenous inhabitants of North Africa. Although predominantly Muslim (mostly belonging to the 16th-century Maliki sect), they are thought to be the purest representatives of pre-Islamic language and culture.


Women play a strong role; Tuareg society is matrilineal and their greatest historic leader was a woman - Tin Hanan. They are never veiled, only wearing scarves or shawls. Men, on the contrary, wear the tagelmust, a swathed turban that leaves only the eyes visible and is never removed in public. Some say this is to ward off evil spirits; more likely it is protection against the harsh desert wind and sandstorms. In Algeria and southern Morocco, Tuaregs have been called the 'blue men' due to their skin being stained by the indigo dye of their turbans.


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