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Index / Peoples /
Tuareg



Tuareg man. In Tunisia.
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Tuareg man. In Tunisia. Photo: Maria Rosaria Sannino.

Tuareg girls. In Niger.
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Tuareg girls. In Niger. Photo: ACEI Cheung.

Nomadic berber people living in the parts of Sahara that covers Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Their numbers are unclear, estimates vary intensively, between 1 and 5 million in all countries. There are about 200,000 in Algeria and 25,000 in Libya. The Tuaregs speak a Berber language called Tamershak, to which there is a proper alphabet.
In earlier times, three of their principal sources of income were taxation of caravan routs crossing Sahara; plundering settled neighbouring peoples; and pastoral activities. These activities have been strongly reduced du to stronger state structures, border control, and need for control over citizens in the modern state. Hence a large part of today's Tuaregs have now moved into cities.
Tuaregs have since long converted to Islam, but their beliefs has a higher part of traditional religious elements than in many other Muslim communities.
A woman in the Tuareg societies have a strong and free position and she decides over her own life. Men, not women, wear veil in public but this has more to do with practical needs than with moral attitude — as men move more around in the desert than women, they have more need for covering and protecting their face.
However, women play so strong a role in the society, that social status depends on matrilineal descent.
The society is strongly hierarchic, divided into nobles, vassals and serfs (descendants of slaves that have faced problems breaking free from their inherited social status).




By Tore Kjeilen