The Tuareg of the Ahaggar

  • Geoffrey Holiday


The origins of the Tuareg tribe are particularly interesting in that they have as yet to be definitely established. Their antecedents go back anything between 600 and a 1,000 years and it is supposed that they are an offshoot of the Berber Arabs, driven into the desert during one of the many invasions of the Tel, the fertile coastal belts of Algeria and Morocco, that continued up to the 13th century when the Moors became really established on the Barbary coast. Likewise, the Berbers with their light skins and blue eyes are probably descended from the Vandals who invaded north Africa some 300 years earlier. Legend, though not springing from the Tuareg themselves, suggests they grew out of a lost band of Crusaders that wandered into the desert after the Holy wars of the middle ages: a legend that draws attention to the Tuareg’s use of chain mail and long two-handed swords and to his stature and Aryan features. The language of the Tuareg is called Tamahaq; their speech soft and guttural. In its written form, Tifinar, the alphabet is possibly that of the ancient Libyans. The hieroglyphics are utterly unlike Arabic and the construction of the alphabet is consonantal, a feature which makes the task of translation difficult. For many years now Dr. Wakefield, an Englishwoman, has been living in Tamanrasset making a study of Tamahaq and translating the Bible. It is already 8 years ago that the National Bible Society of Scotland published the Book of Ruth for missionary work among the Tuareg based on Dr. Wakefield’s studies.

Author Biography

Geoffrey Holiday
He was, for several years on the staff of the Nigerian Broadcasting Service, and with his wife made a special study of the Tuaregs of the Sahara.