Tuareg, Tamasheq in Mauritania

Tuareg, Tamasheq
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Katja Tsvetkova - Shutterstock  All rights reserved.  Used with permission
Map Source:  People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Tuareg, Tamasheq
Country: Mauritania
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 136,000
World Population: 939,000
Primary Language: Tamasheq
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.04 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Tuareg
Affinity Bloc: Arab World
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The Tahoua Tuareg of Mali belong to a larger group of Berber-speaking Tuareg who live in an area that stretches from the western Sahara to western Sudan. The Tuareg are divided into several main political groups or tribal units. Their distinguishing characteristics include the unity of their language, their alphabet which uses "tifinagh" characters, and their complex social organization.

Although little is known about the Tahoua, it is thought that they are part of a Tuareg tribe that once lived in the town of Tahoua, southern Niger. Today, the Tamasheq-speaking Tahoua live in Niger, while the Tamajeq-speaking Tahoua live in Mali.

Although the origin and early history of the Tuareg are obscure, these tribal nomads appear to have traveled down from North Africa in a series of migrations as early as the seventh century. By the end of the 1300s, Tuareg tribes had established themselves as far south as the Nigerian border.

What Are Their Lives Like?

At the beginning of the 1300s, salt, gold, ivory, and slave markets sprang up across Tuareg territory which stretched across North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. During that time, the Tuareg became well known as livestock producers and merchants in the Saharan and Sahelian regions.

In the Southern Sahara, many Tuareg, particularly those from the Negro classes, are now settled farmers living in villages surrounded by grain fields. Since farming is seasonal work, many of the young men also take jobs as blue-collar workers in Nigeria, Ghana, or Ivory Coast for part of the year.

In 1972, the worst drought in 50 years struck the Sahara, bringing disaster and severe stress to the Tuareg. The nomads were forced to travel southward with their families in search of pastures for their herds. This massive migration intensified as water supplies began to fail. Conflicts over rights and obligations among the people and governments of the regions were also generated. Many animals died of thirst, hunger, or fatigue during the long journey. Thousands of Tuareg drifted to the cities where they set up cowhide shelters and lean-to shanties on the fringes of town.

Although the rains in 1974 were good, they did not wash away the serious economic and social effects of the drought, and life for the Tuareg was never to be the same. Many Tuareg, tempted by the less rigorous urban lifestyle, never returned to their original homeland.

Even today, the Tuareg depend on their animals for survival; however, meat and milk are not enough, especially during the dry years. The basic elements of the Tuareg diet are milk, grains, and dates. Fresh vegetables are rarely eaten. Millet is raised both in the Saharan oases and in Sudan. Though meat is highly preferred, it is not eaten on a regular basis. Goat is the most commonly eaten meat; camel is rarely eaten.

The Tuareg nomads live in small, lightweight, leather tents or grass huts. A tent is usually about 10 feet long and 10 to 15 feet wide. A household can pack its goods on the backs of two camels, while one or two donkeys carry their odds and ends.

The Tuareg wear clothing that is loose and lightweight. In direct contrast to Arab custom, all of the men wear veils called tidjelmousts; the women do not wear veils. The most preferred tidjelmousts are dyed indigo, though many men wear black. To show respect, the men always cover their mouths, noses, and foreheads while in the presence of foreigners or their in-laws.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Though the Tuareg are virtually all Sunni Muslim, they have a reputation among other Muslims for being lukewarm in their faith. They practice a passive form of Islam, infused with folk beliefs and magic. Most do not even celebrate the most important Muslim fast of Ramadan.

What Are Their Needs?

There are few known Tahoua Tuareg believers in Mali. Prayer is the key to reaching these precious people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer Points

Pray that missions agencies and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Tahoua Tuareg.
Pray that Gospel broadcasts will soon be produced in the Tamajeq language.
Pray that the small number of Tahoua Tuareg believers will rise to the challenge of taking the Gospel to their people.
Pray that God will grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Tuareg.
Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Tuareg who will boldly declare the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to raise up strong fellowships of believers among the Tahoua Tuareg.

Text Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center