Introduction / History The Tuaregs (Aulliminden) belong to a larger group of nomadic, Berber-speaking Tuaregs who live scattered across North Africa. The Aulliminden are one of the seven major Tuareg confederations. Although the Tuareg homeland lies to the north of Nigeria, major droughts in 1972 and 1982 forced the nomads to travel southward in search of pastures for their herds. Thousands of Tuareg drifted to the cities, where they set up cowhide shelters and lean-to shanties on the fringes of town. Many never returned to their homeland.
In direct contrast to Arab custom, Tuareg men wear veils called tidjelmousts; the women do not wear veils. The main function of the veil appears to be social, since the men often leave their faces uncovered while in the family camps or on journeys. However, to show respect, they always cover their mouths, noses, and foreheads while in the presence of foreigners or their in-laws. The most preferred veils are dyed indigo.
What are their lives like? Tuaregs have a highly complex social structure. The main division is between the Ihaggaren (upper class nobility) and the Imrad (lower class servants). In the past, each of the noble tribes and their servants formed a political unit under a chief. The chief's authority was symbolized by a drum. The "drum chief" held supreme political and judicial authority in the group, regulating relations between the nobles and the servants.
Tuareg marriages usually take place between couples within the same clan, or extended family unit. Marriages between cousins are preferred. A newlywed couple generally lives for about a year in the camp of the bride's parents. Then, they will move over to the husband's camp. The typical age for marriage is between 20 and 25 for women and almost 30 for men. Monogamy (one husband, one wife) is the rule, and divorce is very unusual and generally frowned upon.
Marriage always requires the payment of a bride price. The size of the gift varies according to the beauty and social standing of the bride, as well as the wealth of the groom. A young man needs quite a few camels to pay the bride price. He must also accumulate a large enough flock to feed his family and still have extra to sell to provide for his household needs.
Tuareg women are treated with respect. However, they are not allowed to hold political offices or exercise any authority outside their own tents. Unlike most other Muslim women, they are not required to wear veils.
Tuareg culture embraces many forms of art. They have a large collection of music, poetry, and songs that are often used during festivals, courtship, and various rituals. Metal, wood, and dyed and embroidered leather crafts are manufactured by skilled craftsmen. Women play single-chord violins called imzads, and men often play drums or wooden flutes. Parties are frequently held around campfires during the evenings, where both men and women sing.
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.
It is very common for Tuaregs to wear protective charms or amulets. Many also believe in jinnis, which are-according to Muslim legend-spirits capable of assuming human or animal form and exercising supernatural influence over people. There are a number of marabouts (those of the "holy class") living among the Tuareg, some of whom run Islamic schools. The marabouts are often called upon to say prayers at funerals and perform various other religious rituals. However, they are neither as active nor powerful as the marabouts living in the rest of North and West Africa.
What are their needs? Prayer is the key to reaching these precious people with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Pray that missions organizations and churches will accept the challenge of adopting and reaching the Tuareg.
* Pray that Gospel broadcasts will soon be produced in the Tawllemmet language.
* Ask the Lord to send loving Christians from others parts of Africa to Nigeria to share the Gospel with the Tuareg.
* 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 local churches among the Tuareg.