From Academic Kids

Template:Ethnic group The Tuareg are a Berber ethnic group or nation. They call themselves Kel Tamasheq, Kel Tamajaq ("speakers of Tamasheq"), Imouhar, Imuhagh, or Imashaghen ("the free"). The Tuareg people also identify themselves with the word Tamust, the nation. The meaning of the word Tuareg has been long discussed. It may have come from a Libyan region known today as Fezzan, but once called Targa. The Arabic word "Targui", for Tuareg, may have derived from the Targa valley, the main city Ubari west of Sebha. Alternatively, Tuareg may have come from a Bedouin pronunciation of the Arabic Tawariq ("abandoned by God", singular Tarqi). The Tuareg today are found mostly in West Africa, but, like many in Northern Africa, were once nomads throughout the Sahara.



Descended from Berbers in the region that is now Libya, the Tuareg were an identifiable nomadic people in the Sahara at the time of Herodotus, who mentions the ancient Libyan people, the Garamantes. Archaeological testimony is the ruins of Germa, the modern Tuareg descended from the Garamantes. Later, they expanded into the Sahel.

Tuareg merchants were long responsible for luxury trade and slave trade connecting the great cities on the southern edge of the Sahara via five desert trade routes to the northern (Mediterranean) coast of Africa.

Before the French colonisation, Tuaregs used to enslave West Africans, either to sell them or to use them for domestic purposes; those who were not sold were usually assimilated into the Tuareg community.

When the French abolished slavery in its colonies, it affected Tuaregs' way of life and many had to abandon their nomadic life for an urban one.

In the Nineteenth Century, they resisted French colonization of what is now Mali and Niger, with Mali signing a peace treaty in 1905 and Niger only in 1917. During this period the French entered southern Algeria. The Ahaggar Tuareg, led by the Amenokal, traditional chief Moussa Ag Amastan, fought many battles against the French, before the region became finally a French protectorate. Before being dismantled by the French, the traditional Tuareg country was organized into a loose confederation. Each of the main groups had a traditional leader called Amenokal, along with an assembly of tribal chiefs: Imgharan, singular Amghar. The groups were: Kel-Ahaggar, Ajjer, Kel-Ayr, Adrar N'Fughas, Iwellemidan, Kel Gres. Following the independence of African states in 1960s, the Tuareg territory was divided between the new states: Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya, and Burkina Faso.

Missing image
Areas where significant numbers of Tuaregs live

Their long-standing conflict with other African tribes has been much exacerbated in the last century, as desertification has forced then steadily south in search of better supplies of water. Desertification has also caused a gradual abandonment of the nomadic life, as more Tuareg have become settled farmers or have moved into towns and cities.

In Mali, a Tuareg uprising began in the Adrar N'Fughas mountains, as early as the 1960s, following Mali's independence. In May 1990, in the aftermath of a clash outside a prison in Tchin-Tabaraden, Niger, Tuaregs in both Mali and Niger claimed autonomy for their regions (Tenere, capital Agadez, in Niger and the Azawad and Kidal regions of Mali). Deadly clashes with the military of both countries followed, with deaths numbering well into the thousands. Negotiations initiated by France and Algeria led to peace agreements (January 11, 1992 in Mali and 1995 in Niger). Both agreements called for decentralization of national power and guaranteed the integration of Tuareg resistance fighters into the countries' respective national armies.

Major fighting between the Tuareg resistance and government security forces ended after the 1995 and 1996 agreements, but in 2004, some limited fighting occurred in Niger between government forces and groups claiming to be again fighting for Tuareg independence.

Tuareg territory

The Tuareg people inhabit a large area covering almost all the middle and western Sahara and the north-central Sahel. In Tuareg terms, the Sahara is not one desert, but many. Thus they call it Tinariwen, meaning "the deserts". Among the many deserts in north-west Africa there is the true desert Tenere. Then we can cite numerous deserts more and less arid, flat and mountainous: Adrar, Tagant, Tawat (Touat) Tanezruft, Adghagh N'Fughas, Tamasna, Azawagh, Adar, Damargu, Tagama, Manga, Ayr, Tarramit (Termit), Kawar, Jado, Tadmait, Admer, Igharghar, Ahaggar, Tassili N'Ajjer, Tadrart, Idhan, Tanghart, Fezzan, Tibesti. Kalansho, Libyan Desert, etc.

Tuareg confederations, political centers, and leaders

At the turn of the 19th century the Tuareg country was organized into confederations, each ruled by a supreme chief (Amenokal), along with a counsel of senior tribesmen elected to assist the chief.

  • Kel Azjar or Ajjer, center Aghat (Ghat).
  • Kel Ahaggar, in Ahaggar mountains
  • Kel Adagh, or Kel Assuk, Kidal, and Tin Buktu
  • Iwillimmidan Kel Ataram, Manaka, and Azawagh region
  • Iwillimmidan Kel Denneg, In Tabaraden, Abalagh, Azawagh.
  • Kel Gres, Zinder and Tanut (Tanout).
  • Kel Ayr, Asode, Agadez, Timia and Ifrwan.

The most famous Tuareg leader was a woman, Tin Hinan, heroine and spiritual leader who founded a legendary kingdom in the Ahaggar mountains. Other tribal leader followed under the name of Amenokal (chief), among the famous:

  • Karidanna, of the Iwillimmidan
  • Musa Ag Amastan, of Kel Ahaggar
  • Ibrahim Ag Abakkada, of Kel Azjar
  • Amud, of Kel Azjar
  • Makhammad Ag Katami, of Iwillimmidan
  • Balkhu, of Kel Ayr


Missing image

The Tuareg are matrilineal, though not matriarchal. Unlike many Muslim societies, the women do not traditionally wear the veil, whereas the men do. The most famous Tuareg symbol is the Tagelmust, their veil often blue indigo colored. The men's facial covering originates from the belief that such action wards off evil spirits, but most probably relates to protection against the harsh desert sands as well; in any event, it is a firmly established tradition (as is the wearing of amulets containing verses from the Qur'an). Men begin wearing a veil at age 25 which conceals their entire face excluding their eyes. This veil is never removed, even in front of family members.

Traditionally, Tuareg society is hierarchal, with nobility and vassals; formerly, they also held slaves ("Iklan"), often African prisoners, darker than the generally brown-skinned Tuareg. Traditionally, the traders had a higher status than their more settled compatriots to the south. With time, that difference has eroded, corresponding to the economic fortunes of the two groups.

Many Tuareg today are either settled agriculturalists or nomadic cattle breeders; there are also still blacksmiths, camel breeders, and caravan leaders.

The Tuareg are sometimes called the "blue people" because of the indigo color of their robes and turbans. However, their clothes and turbans may be found in other colors. Nowadays, the indigo turban is usually used on celebration days. It tends to lose its color on the human skin.


Main article: Tuareg languages

The Tuareg speak Tamajaq/Tamasheq/Tamahaq, a Berber language or set of languages with significant variations among the different regions. The language is called Tamasheq by western Tuareg, Mail, Tamahaq among Algerian and Libyan Tuareg and Tamajaq in Azawagh and Ar regions, Niger. The Tamajaq writing system, Tifinagh (also called Shifinagh), descends directly from the original Berber script used by the Numidians in pre-Roman times.


The Tuareg have been predominantly Muslim since the 16th century, though lax in observance, more inclined to observe feasts than fasts. They combine Sunni Islam (specifically the Maliki madhhab, popular in North and West Africa) with certain pre-Islamic animistic beliefs, such as the presence of spirits Kel Asuf and such syncretic beliefs as divination through means of the Qur'an.


Much Tuareg art is in the form of jewellery, leather and metal saddle decorations called 'Trik', and finely crafted swords. The Inadan community makes traditional handicrafts. Among their products are: Tanaghilt or Zakkat (the 'Agadez Cross' or 'Croix d'Agadez'); the Tuareg Takoba, a nearly one meter long sword, with red leather cover; many beautiful gold and silver-made necklaces called 'Takaza'; and earrings called 'Tizabaten'.

Traditional Music

Traditional Tuareg music has two major components: the moncord violin Anzad played often during night parties and a small tambour covered with goatskin called Tende, perfomed during camel race and other festivities. Another popular Tuareg musical genre is Takamba, characteristic for its Afro-Berber percussions.

Tinariwen, a Tuareg band that fuses electric guitars and indigenous musical styles, was founded in the 1980s by rebel fighters. They released their first CD in 2000, and toured in Europe and the United States in 2004.

Many music groups emerged after the 1980s cultural revival. Among them Tartit, Imaran and known artists are: Abdallah Oumbadougou from Ayr, Baly Othmany of Djanet.

Ethnic Classification

The Tuareg are a Berber group, and are closely related to both Northwest African Berbers and West Africans , in terms of culture and race. At least some sources argue that the Tuareg are defined by language, not by race, and that predominantly Middle Eastern and/or Black African Tamasheq speakers qualify as "Tuareg" (and, presumably, by implication, individuals of Tuareg descent but who have assimilated into various countries and do not speak Tamasheq languages do not). (See, for example, [1] (http://wwwusers.imaginet.fr/~yusuf/introduction.html)). This is probably part of the reason for the widely varying estimates of the number of Tuareg.


  • University of Iowa's Art and Life in Africa Online: Tuareg [2] (http://www.uiowa.edu/~africart/toc/people/Tuareg.html)
  • Origin and History of the Tuaregs [3] (http://tuaregs.free.fr/tuareg_e/pages/origin/origin-e_nsf.htm)
  • The Massacres at Tchin Tarabaden: 10 years later! [4] (http://membres.lycos.fr/temoust/press_release7500.htm). This press release (7 May 2000), while polemical, is useful for a pro-Tuareg view of the conflicts in Mali and Niger.
  • Rando et al. (1998) Mitochondrial DNA analysis of northwest African populations reveals genetic exchanges with European, near-eastern, and sub-Saharan populations. Annals of Human Genetics 62(6): 531-50; Watson et al. (1996) mtDNA sequence diversity in Africa. American Journal of Human Genetics 59(2): 437-44; Salas et al. (2002) The Making of the African mtDNA Landscape. American Journal of Human Genetics 71: 1082-1111. These are good sources for information on the genetic heritage of the Tuareg and their relatedness to other populations.

Tuareg is also the title of a Spanish book written by Alberto Vzquez Figueroa.

Tuareg Geeks is a Mexican experimental noise band.

Touareg is also the brand name of a Volkswagen car.

Tuareg (http://www-rocq.inria.fr/~acohen/tuareg/) is also an Emacs mode for programming in Caml. Presumably the name was chosen as a pun on camel.

External links

Template:Berberde:Tuareg fr:Touareg it:Tuaregh nl:Touareg no:Tuareg sl:Tuaregi zh:圖瓦雷克


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools