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    Basira Hakeem


      The Tuareg people are a large Berber ethnic group that principally inhabit the Sahara in a vast area stretching from far Southwestern Libya to southern Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. They are often called the Blue people because of the indigo dye coloured clothes they traditionally wear which stains their skin. The Tuaregs are traditionally nomadic pastoralists and they speak languages of the same name. The Tuaregs have traditionally lived in a highly-stratified feudal society with nobles and clergymen at the top, vassals, caravaneers, herders and artisans in the middle and labourers, servants in the bottom. In the Washington Post, Paul Richard wrote: “Tuareg nobels rule by right…:”



      The Tuaregs are monogamous and their marriages are considered as the most sacred because they are more attached to their ancestral traditions which strengthens the social ties. The marriage rituals of the Tuareg tribe are still preserved and transmitted from generation to generation.



      When courting or dating, the Tuareg men and women sniff their noses together instead of kissing, they are greatly dismayed that foreigners press their lips together. It is customary for a young man to sneak into the tent of his girlfriend in the middle of the night and sniff and pet her then sneak out before dawn.



      In the traditions of the Tuaregs, most weddings are held between July to September when the caravans have finished their expeditions and there is rain in the deserts. The brides are usually between the age of 14 or 15, while the men are often in their mid-20s. In most cases, when there is an agreement between the man and woman, the man sends the elderly people of his family to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage. Marriages of child and cousin have traditionally been common amongst the Tuaregs.



      After the asking for the hand of the girl, the two families come together to find a common ground for weaving a new tribal bond, fix the amount of the dowry which is usually in kind of animals like camels, goats or oxen or in cash and then discuss the conditions for preparing and organizing the ceremony which is subject to the approval of the tribe’s chief. The girl’s parents receive some or the entire dowry paid and after all of this a date is chosen to celebrate the marriage.



      The wedding celebration, which usually lasts for several days often times a week includes camel racing, singing, comedy skits, a feast of roasted meats, dates and rice in a group of tents set up in the middle of the desert. In wedding ceremonies of the Tuaregs, songs and dances are performed to the rhythm of their musical instruments called Tindi and Imzad.



      During a Tuareg wedding, the bride is dressed up in a colourful dress adorned with silver jewellery and made up with products from local makeup. The bride gets on a donkey loaded with carpets and pillows and other gifts and travels with a small caravan of family members who are dressed in their finest clothes across the desert to the groom’s camp. The marriage rite is performed by Marabout (Muslim religious leader and teacher who historically had the function of a chaplain serving as a part of an Islamic army, notably in North Africa and the Sahara in West Africa and in the Maghreb) in a local mosque in accordance with the Tuareg tradition. The marriage rite is attended by the parents but not the bride and groom.The bride must stay in a tent during the week-long ceremony and is not allowed to speak to anyone except her husband, best friend, mother and attendants.



      The groom has henna applied to his feet and hands which symbolises purity and fertility as well as protection from “Jinn”.



      During the ceremony the meal Talebdjat which contains chopped camel meat  is served to the guests, followed by tea prepared by the fire of embers and the distribution of another dish consisting of an extract of dates and milk. In some other traditions of the Tuareg, a pair of real leather shoes called Agatimene is given to the bride by the groom as well as a symbolic sum of money.



      The newly weds sleep in an “ehan”, a nuptial tent which is taken apart and disassembled each day of the wedding festival and a larger one is made each day to symbolize the expansion of the festivities and the marriage itself. The tent is made with a frame of bent poles and covered with planks and palm from mat. The groom and bride are never left alone out of the fear of jealous spirits that will harm them. The couples spend the night together each night but the husband leaves before sunrise each morning. However the bride remains secluded in the tent.



      The couples move to the camps of the bride’s parents and spend their first year of marriage living with her family, the husband works hard in order to earn the bride’s parents respect and approval. The husband takes his bride to his camp once this is achieved.The tent and its furnishings are supplied to the couple by the bride’s family and the latter keeps the property in case of divorce. In the Tuareg’s tradition, the children bear their mother’s family name and not their father’s.

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