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Tuareg

The name “Tuareg” will come from the Arabic “abandoned from the gods”. The Ahaggar desert is populated by Berber tribes, Imoûhagh (Tuareg) or Kel Ahaggar or Kel Tamâhaq. The Tuaregs are called Imouhagh and Tamahaq (coming from the term Iohagh, meaning: to be free, independent). The oral tradition has taught us numerous myths and legends concerning the origin of the various tribes of the Ahaggar. Indeed, the Tuaregs organized into tribes in the first millennium before the Christian era, formed territories ruled by the queen Tin Hinan. In the Neolithic, the region of Ahaggar was inhabited by Negro Africans sedentary populations (from Upper Egypt) who were practicing cattle breeding and also by white Berbers inhabitants.

The name Targui / Tuareg, of Arabic form, seems to come from the word Targa (trough, watering canal, garden …) which formerly designated the Fezzan Region from which came several Tuareg groups. The Tuaregs of Ahaggar hold a privileged position in Western and North African literature. Their name, reputed since the early middle Ages, is quoted by the first Arab writers. According to Ibn Khaldûn (History of the Berbers), at the beginning of the Arab conquest, the Hawwara group lived in the region of Tripoli and Barqa, as reported by al-Mas udi and al-Bakri. These tribes were either sedentary or nomadic. Some of them crossed the sands to enter the desert. They established themselves with the Lamtas, who are mulattemin, meaning veiled men of the Taguelmoust, a particularity of dress which is greatly impressive.
The Tuaregs of the Ahaggar were among the first with the Kel-Ajjer to oppose the trans-Saharan trade projects of the colonial powers at the end of the 19th century. In doing so, they won the reputation of formidable opponents, but also offered a certain “chivalric” image of the Sahara, fierce and proud warriors, singing war and love songs accompanied by imzad (monochord violin) musicians. The social life of the Tuareg forms a hierarchical society. At the top of this company are:

◾ The Imobhar-Imajeren, nobles, formerly responsible for wars and pillage, living from the dues of their protégés and the breeding of camels
◾ Immediately after the Ineslimen-Cheriffen, “Tuareg marabouts”, literate in Arabic, educated in Islamic religion, they often play the role of teachers and judges
◾ The third class is the Imraden, free men but vassals and tributaries of the nobles, to whom they pay dues, today officially suppressed
◾kel oulli, “people of the goats”, as the Berber language designates them, they raise sheep, goats and some camels. Currently, this caste organization tends to disappear but not the Tuareg identity (temoust).

Because of their civilization and their customs, the Tuaregs are clearly distinguishable from the arabs. While the women go out uncovered, the men wear a long turban, the litham, which, while protecting them from the sands of the desert, can also be a symbol of modesty and concealment. Very attached to Berber traditions, they cover their bodies with amulets. The Tuareg are in general little arabized. They are monogamous and the filiation is established by women; the child belongs to the tribe and social class of his mother. A great freedom seems to exist between men and women; the poetic and musical meetings are the occasion of very free relations between men and women. The Tuareg woman enjoys a privileged status: she enjoys autonomy and she is listened in the society. The tent belongs to the wife, and in case of misunderstanding between the spouses, the man will be chased away by his wife.
At the hinge between the sub-Saharan and Mediterranean worlds, Tuareg nomads have relied on trans-Saharan trade organized around a vast network of caravan routes between the Mediterranean and the Sahel, the Atlantic and the Red Sea. In this context, they could trade, lead the caravans, rent their camels, charge rights of way on territories under their control or engage in lucrative pillaging.

Throughout their history, Tuareg have been under the control of many colonizers on their territory. From the seventh century to the eleventh century, the Arabs invaded North Africa. But Tuaregs will relocate to the most impenetrable areas of the Sahara. While some Berber tribes submit to this invasion and stayed in their ancestral land, Tuaregs who know very well the Sahara managed to survive in this great desert. Then come in 1880 and 1890, the colonization of North Africa by France. The Tuareg people were the last people to surrender to France around 1902. The conflicts between the Tuareg and other populations lessen under the French administration. But in 1960, on the occasion of independence, the colonial power handed over the political power to the “people of the south”, with the creation of countries like Mali and Niger. But the Tuareg decided to rebel in 1962 in Mali. Governments tried to control the rebellion by seizing their camels and herds, knowing that camels were their only means of transportation and the herds, their only way to eat and survive. Subsequently, other conflicts erupted like “the wars of sands” from 1990 to 1995 in Mali and Niger, in 2006 in Mali, and again from 2007 to 2009 in these same two countries.

We will now talk about their adaptation in their environment. First of all, the Touareg live in the Sahara, which is above the Sahel. The Sahel is a strip of land that crosses the African continent, separating the arid Sahara in northern Africa from the humid forest in the south. The Sahara is a set of desert plains spreading across Africa (From the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea). It is 6,000 km long, 1,500 to 2,000 km wide. That’s an area of 7 million km². On the climate side, the temperature can vary up to 50 ° C during the day and can go down to negative temperatures at night. The air is warm and dry. The Sahara is spread over the tropics of cancer; rains are rare and the atmosphere is increasingly dry.
The Touaregs adapt to their environment with different clothes. Men wear a dark blue tunic, knee-length trousers, a rigid leather belt to maintain their torso straight while walking, a talguelmoust (indigo-dyed turban) always covering the face even during sleep. This scarf has two significant colors: White as a sign of respect and indigo of linen for the holidays or cold weather because it is thicker. The Tuareg women wear a large tunic fabric, and a indigo-dyed scarf that hide their head and chest and leather sandals to walk on the sand. Men wear jewels, amulets, rings, pendants, bracelets … Their clothing adapts to their environment because they allow them to protect their eyes and respiratory tracts from the sun’s rays, the sand raised by the wind and the cold of the night.
The Tuaregs speak Tamachek a language written in a particular alphabet, the Tifinagh. They do not have paper to write so they use rocks, bones or leather. To be able to feed themselves, the Tuareg grow barley, corn, vegetables, millet and breed sheep in order to obtain dried meat. They practice barter trade: they sell their products for salt bread and dates. This commercial activity is sustained through long caravan journeys with only few men and about fifty nine dromedaries (9 months in the desert)

 

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