The Tuareg are a Berber people with a traditionally nomadic pastoralist lifestyle. They are the principal inhabitants of the Saharan interior of North Africa. The Tuareg language, a branch of the Berber languages, has an estimated 1.2 million speakers. About half this number is accounted for by speakers of the Eastern dialect (Tamajaq, Tawallammat). Most Tuareg live in the Saharan parts of Niger, Mali, and Algeria. Being nomadic, they move constantly across national borders, and small groups of Tuareg also live in southeastern Algeria, southwestern Libya and northern Burkina Faso, and a small community in northern Nigeria. The Tuareg people inhabit a large area, Almost all of the middle and the western for the Sahara is inhabited by the Tuareg and the north-central Sahel. In Tuareg terms, the Sahara is not one desert but many, so they call it Tinariwen (“the Deserts”). Among the many deserts in Africa, there is the true desert Ténéré. Other deserts are more and less arid, flat and mountainous: Adrar, Tagant, Tawat (Touat) Tanezrouft, Adghagh n Fughas, Tamasna, Azawagh, Adar, Damargu, Tagama, Manga, Ayr, Tarramit (Termit), Kawar, Djado, Tadmait, Admer, Igharghar, Ahaggar, Tassili n’Ajjer, Tadrart, Idhan, Tanghart, Fezzan, Tibesti, Kalansho, Libyan Desert, etc. While there is little conflict about the driest parts of Tuareg territory, many of the water sources and pastures they need for cattle breeding get fenced off by absentee landlords, impoverishing some Tuareg communities. There is also an unresolved land conflict about many stretches of farm land just south of the Sahara. Tuareg often also claim ownership over these lands and over the crop and property of the impoverished Rimaite-people, farming them. The Tuareg expanded southward from the Tafilalt region into the Sahel under their legendary queen Tin Hinan, who is assumed to have lived in the 4th or 5th century. Tin Hinan is credited in Tuareg lore with uniting the ancestral tribes and founding the unique culture that continues to the present day. At Abalessa, a grave traditionally held to be hers has been scientifically studied. Traditionally, Tuareg society is hierarchical, with nobility and vassals. Each Tuareg clan (tawshet) is made up of several family groups, each led by its chief, the amghar. A series of tawsheten (plural of tawshet) may bond together under an Amenokal, forming a Kel clan confederation. Tuareg self-identification is related only to their specific Kel, which means “those of”. E.g. Kel Dinnig (those of the east), Kel Ataram (those of the west). The position of amghar is hereditary through a matrilineal principle, it is usual for the son of a sister of the incumbent chieftain to succeed to his position. The amenokal is elected in a ritual which differs between groups, the individual amghar who lead the clans making up the confederation usually have the deciding voice. In Tuareg society women do not traditionally wear the veil, whereas men do. The most famous Tuareg symbol is the Tagelmust (also called éghéwed), referred to as a Cheche (pronounced “Shesh”), an often indigo blue-colored veil called Alasho. The men’s facial covering originates from the belief that such action wards off evil spirits. It may have related instrumentally from the need for protection from the harsh desert sands as well. It is a firmly established tradition, as is the wearing of amulets containing sacred objects and, recently, also verses from the Qur’an. Taking on the veil is associated with the rite of passage to manhood; men begin wearing a veil when they reach maturity. The veil usually conceals their face, excluding their eyes and the top of the nose. Taguella is a flat bread made from millet, a grain, which is cooked on charcoals in the sand and eaten with a heavy sauce. Millet porridge is a staple much like ugali and fufu. Millet is boiled with water to make a pap and eaten with milk or a heavy sauce. Common dairy foods are goat’s and camel’s milk, as well as cheese and yogurt made from them. Eghajira is a thick beverage drunk with a ladle. It is made by pounding millet, goat cheese, dates, milk and sugar and is served on festivals like Eid ul-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. In the Maghreb, a popular tea called “atai” or “ashay” is made from Gunpowder Green Tea with a handful of fresh mint sprigs and several cubes of sugar. After steeping, it is poured three times in and out of the tea pot over the tea, mint and sugar and served by pouring from a height of over a foot into small tea glasses with a froth on top. The Tuareg speak Tamajaq/Tamasheq/Tamahaq, the language is called Tamasheq by western Tuareg in Mali, Tamahaq among Algerian and Libyan Tuareg, and Tamajaq in the Azawagh and Aïr regions, Niger.
French missionary Charles de Foucauld famously compiled a dictionary of the Tuareg language.