Sahrawi in Western Sahara

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

A sub-group of the Moors, they are of mixed Berber, Arab, and black African descent. Originally, the Sahrawi were desert nomads who traveled from place to place with their camels. Today, they can be found in the desert in southern Morocco, in the Western Sahara region, in the north of Mauritania, in Algerian refugee camps, and in the Canary Islands. Western Sahara was a Spanish colony, but Spain pulled out in 1976. Then Morocco and Mauritania invaded the former colony. Mauritania pulled out in 1979 but Moroccan troops still occupy the territory. They fight the Polisaro Front, the group fighting for independence for Western Sahara.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Many Sahrawi have gotten caught in the fighting and have fled to refugee camps in Morocco. Many others have remained in Western Sahara. These people face constant danger from the Moroccan army and the Polisaro guerillas. Women and children have fled to refugee camps and depend on special programs for basic necessities. Sahrawi society consists of four main groups: warriors; marabouts, or holy people; tribute payers, who pay taxes to the higher classes; and black slaves. Craftsmen and musicians form separate, low-caste groups. In the past, differences in social class were clearly marked. The eight Sahrawi tribes were constantly at odds with one another, struggling for supremacy. Fighting, robbery, and revenge were the means of surviving drought, plagues. Peace through negotiation always followed. Today, classes serve more as a means of identification rather than a way of life. Some Sahrawi are herdsmen, others are traders, and still others are warriors. However, all speak an Arabic dialect called Hassaniya. In addition, their religion, way of life, and dress are Arabic in flavor and style.

The Saharawi people are Muslims who believe our spiritual needs are found in Islam. Muslims are not often open to hearing about the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
What Are Their Beliefs?

While many pre-Islamic beliefs still exist among the Sahrawi, they like to think of themselves as pure Muslims, though they are not that orthodox. Like most North African groups, they hold to beliefs that certain dead Muslim teachers have a power that can be accessed for healing through pilgrimage to their grave sites. Some scholars have mentioned that the Sahrawi also worship a god known as Sidi Erbbi, who is paternal and full of life.

What Are Their Needs?

The Sahrawi live in an area of war and political turmoil. As a result, families have been divided, and many have been displaced in refugee camps. Their desire for political recognition and independence is strong. Fervent intercession must be made if the Sahrawi are to find lasting peace in a saving relationship with Christ.

Prayer Points

Pray for peace in the Western Sahara. Ask God for the formation of Bible believing churches among this people group in Western Sahara. Pray that the Sahrawi would come to see Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace and flee to him for refuge. Pray for Christ's ambassadors to go to these Muslims, bearing the sin-forgiving Savior.

Scripture Prayers for the Sahrawi in Western Sahara.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Sahrawi
People Name in Country Sahrawi
Pronunciation sah-RAH-wee
Alternate Names Delim; Delim Bedouin; Saharawi
Population this Country 194,000
Population all Countries 477,000
Total Countries 5
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 4
People ID 14639
ROP3 Code 108512
ROP25 Code 307117
ROP25 Name Saharawi

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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.04 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
99.86 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.10 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Hassaniyya
Language Code mey   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 3
Secondary Languages
Arabic, Moroccan Spanish
Primary Language Hassaniyya
Language Code mey   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 3
Secondary Languages
  Arabic, Moroccan
People Groups Speaking Hassaniyya
Photo Source EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid - Flickr  Creative Commons 
Profile Source Joshua Project 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

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