Touareg Tradition

Touareg warrior stands guard outside the groom's desert tent

Guarding the groom's tent

Niger,West Africa.

We were invited to a Touareg wedding because one of our driver’s cousins was getting married. Touareg are often referred to as the “Blue Men” of Africa. They are considered mysterious because the men take the veil rather than the women.

Notice the way the light gleams on the indigo dyed cloth of his headdress and the girl’s scarf. The dye is a powder and is pounded into the fabic by men using wooden mallets and laying the fabric on a log, then adding the powder and hammering it into the fibers. As a result, the color leeches onto the skin of the wearer. The Touareg think this protects their skin from the sun and they consider it handsome.

The veil is used when the men are raiding…as a mask…and when the men speak to their elders. They might have their veil lowered but when an elder arrives they cover their face. They drink their tea or eat by lifting the veil away from their face, still not exposing their mouth or nose.

Here is a Touareg warrior standing outside the groom’s tent. The colorful trappings on the tent are carpets with designs similar to Moroccan carpets. The Touareg are Berber and Morocco has many Berber tribes, but no Touareg. 

We entered the tent and found the groom and a few of his friends drinking tea and waiting for the guests to arrive. Soon we would see groups of men astride fast moving camels racing toward us. With their headdresses and veils and only a tiny slit for their eyes they seemed menacing. I could well understand the fear that desert travelers felt as a group of these tribesmen approached a caravan laden with valuable goods. Nowadays, though, the Touareg use a Toyota 4×4 to carry out raids. 

The lovely young woman below has made her face up with red markings and is wearing her best indigo blouse. We were told the blouses can cost a hundred dollars, but I wondered how they could afford that amount. Would they sell a camel? The Touareg don’t farm, but do carry on with the salt caravans. Maybe they trade salt for the clothing. 

Her hair was braided into many tiny braids. We saw the women helping each other get ready by doing hair and offering advice on face markings. They were crowded together in a tent much as women here would be in a bedroom helping each other to look their best.

young Touareg woman dressed in best clothes

Touareg woman dressed to attend tribal wedding

This tribe is not particularly friendly. The Wodaabe were much more friendly.


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