Tuareg Confederacies & Territories
Coloured regions of the Sahara & North Africa, showing the locations of Tuareg confederacies & territories.
The Tuareg Tribes of The Sahara
The Tuareg are the native inhabitants of the Sahara desert, in North Africa,
since immemorial time, and there are no records of anyone else inhabiting the
Sahara before them. The Tuareg Berber tribes of the Sahara are
known by various names including the local Tuwareq (الطوارق), Tuareq or Twareq,
and the international forms Twareg, Tauareg, Tuwareg, Tuarek or Touareg, all
of which are the plural form of the singular name Targi.
By nature they are nomadic tribes, moving from oasis to
another in search of pasture and water, with settled groups in the oases, like
Ghat and Ghadames in Libya. The Tuareg are a Berber group of tribes who speak
Tamazight language, which is a Berber language belonging to the Afroasiatic
(Afrasiatic) or Hamito-Semitic linguistic family; and hence they call themselves
Imushagh ("The Speakers of Tamazight ['Berber Language']"). The Tuareg
have a number of variants for the name Tamazight, mainly Tamaheqt, Tamasheght,
Tamajeght or Temesheght.
According to the Berber Tuareg system of government a confederacy
is a group of related or neighbouring tribes most of which consist
of a group of clans. For example the Azger confederacy is composed of
forty-one tribes (see below for details). These confederacies are in fact
of the later times. According to the Berber Tuareg of the Sahara the king of
the confederacy is called Amenukal.
The Tuareg territories are divided into various confederacies
or federations, each of which originally had its own traditions and tribal laws.
Traditional Berber government consists mainly of an egalitarian council of elders
(the old people of the community), who meet to discuss and decide the affairs
of the community. The
above map lists the Tuareg confederacies as Saltanate or Sulthanate.
The confederacies are colour-coded, and their names are as follows:
- Pink (top right): Azger Confederacy: located in Algeria and Libya (including
the oases of Ubari & Ghat).
- Pink (lower right): Ayer Confederacy: located in Niger, also written
Aïr, Air or Ayr.
- Pink (left): Awellimedden & Kel Athram Confederacy: located
in Mali, includes Timbuktu.
- Yellow (top): Ahoggar Confederacy, located in Algeria: includes the oasis
- Yellow (middle): Tkerekrit Confederacy: located in Niger & Mali (including
the oasis Agadir & Tawa).
- Light-Blue: Tamezgda Confederacy, located in Niger.
- Orange (below 4): Agres [Kel Gress] Confederacy: located in Niger
The Desert Shows You Nothing; You Must Find Everything.
Picture an old, spirited, Targi man, passing
by a team of young and energetic dancers. He gets drawn in, and soon laughter
rises into the night sky as he fails to imitate them; how could he! But
then a couple of determined turns and quick twists the desert sand rises into
the sky beneath his cracked bare feet, and to the amazement of the youngsters
he elegantly succeeds in out-performing their best and ashamedly
forcing them to leave the scene one by one, eyes down.
Experience and subtlety among other things are the theme of this dance. Tuareg
dance is advanced and wonderful to watch and enjoy, but unfortunately not easy
The Tuareg Political Groups
According to other sources, the Tuareg society is divided into the following political groups, which thus can be considered as confederacies:
- Azjer (Kel Ajjer), located in the Tassili-n-Ajjer Mountains.
- Ahaggaren (Kel Ahaggar), also known as Ihoggaren, located in the Ahoggar region.
- Ifora (Kel Adrar), located in the in the Foras Mountains ( of Adrar-n-Foras).
- Abzin (Kel Air), located in the Massif of Air: Abzin is often mentioned
as Asben (meaning: 'the Air Massif').
- Itesan (Kel Gress), located south of Abzin.
- Awellimidden (Iwllemmeden, Oulliniden, Auellimmedden).
- Kel Tadmaket, located around Timbuktu.
- Isandalan, located south of the Niger bend.
- Kel Owey, located in the central part of Air.
- Kel Ferwan, located Iferouane.