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Mysterious Islamic Tribe Where Women Have Sex With Different Men, Don’t Wear A Veil And Own Property

Equality: The women of the Tuareg are respected members of society, who own the homes and the animalsBehind the ancient way of life for the Tuareg tribe of the Sahara is a culture so progressive it would even make some in liberal western cultures blush.

Women are allowed to have multiple sexual partners outside of marriage, keep all their property on divorce and are so revered by their sons-in-law that the young men wouldn’t dare eat in the same room.

What is even more surprising is that even though the tribe has embraced Islam they have firmly held onto some of the customs that would not be acceptable to the wider Muslim world.

It is the men, and not the women, who cover their faces, for example.

Photographer Henrietta Butler, who has been fascinated by the Tuareg since she first followed them through the desert in 2001, once asked why this was. The explanation was simple.

‘The women are beautiful. We would like to see their faces.’

But this is certainly not the only place the Tuareg, related to the Berbers of North Africa, differ from the Muslim world of the Middle East, and even other parts of their own continent.

Before a woman marries, she is free to take as many lovers as she wants.Mothers: These two children were pictured in December 1967. Tuareg children traditionally stay with their mothers after a divorceThese two children were pictured in December 1967. Tuareg children traditionally stay with their mothers after a divorce

‘They turn a blind eye,’ explained Butler. ‘The young girls have the same great freedoms as the boys.’

For years, the men of the Tuareg have been able to ride to a young woman’s tent, and sneak into the side entrance – while his well-trained camel stands quietly and waits.

There, they will spend the night together – while the family, who all live in the tent, politely pretend not to notice.

Should the woman choose to welcome a different man into her tent the next day, so be it.

However, there is also a code of practice which none would dare break. Privacy is all important for this centuries old tribe of nomads, who once crossed the desert bringing dates, salt and saffron south, and slaves and gold north.Lyrical: A Tuareg woman at a music festival in 2003. Young couples write beautiful poetry to each other The idea of breaking the rules of courtship would be mortifying; as a result, the man is always gone before sunrise.

‘The Tuareg are utterly discreet. Everything is done with utmost discretion and respect,’ said Butler.

The relaxed customs around sexual partners has resulted in the girls getting married later than they may otherwise do, with the age of 20 not being uncommon.

Although, before then, they will have been wooed with poetry written by the men, who spend hours carefully crafting the words which they hope will win their beloved over.

But it is not a one-way street: the women are just as capable of putting pen to paper, using their own alphabet, taught to them by their mothers.

‘The women also make poetry eulogising the men,’ says Butler. ‘There is high romance and idolatry.’Class system: Tuareg women pictured in Niger. The Tuareg are divided into castes, with the nobles at the top and peasants at the bottom  Unlike in so many other cultures, women lose none of their power once they marry either.

Many marriages end in divorce among the Tuareg. And when it happens, it is the wife who keeps both the animals and the tent. And it is she who normally decides that she’s had enough. 

His wife, meanwhile, will keep possession of everything she brought to the marriage and that includes the children.

The mother’s camp, Butler explains, is the root of the community, the home everyone returns to – and this arrangement ensures it stays that way.

And there is no shame in divorce. Families will often throw their daughters a divorce party, to let other men know they are available once more.

But this is not a matriarchal society, where the women are in charge.TUAREG-1 Butler explains it is still the men ‘who sit and talk politics’. But even here, the women can be deferred to. They are often consulted for their views by their sons or husbands, and are quietly pulling the strings behind the scenes.  

However, Tuareg society is matri-lineal, which means the families trace their lines through the women, rather than the men, right the way back to their first queen.

So, Butler explained: ‘Traditionally, the man would belong to the woman’s group, rather than the other way around.’

The preference for the women’s line goes as far as man leaving his possessions to his sister’s son as it ‘is considered a stronger link to your family than to your own son’.

In other words, it can be guaranteed that your sister’s child belongs to your sister, rather than a man’s son, who cannot be absolutely guaranteed to share his genes.Owner: A nomadic Tuareg woman in front of her tent, with younger children sit inside. The mother's tent is the heart of the familyA nomadic Tuareg woman in front of her tent, with younger children sit inside. The mother’s tent is the heart of the familyFreedoms: Before young Tuareg women marry, they are allowed to take as many different lovers as they want - as long as they abide by the strict rules of privacy which govern their societyBefore young Tuareg women marry, they are allowed to take as many different lovers as they want – as long as they abide by the strict rules of privacy which govern their society.Rules: This means the man must only arrive at her tent after dark, and leave before sunrise. Pictured: A Tuareg woman's decorated handsThis means the man must only arrive at her tent after dark, and leave before sunrise. Pictured: A Tuareg woman’s decorated hands.

But there is one tradition which is certainly far more unusual: it is highly rude for a man to eat in front of a woman who he cannot have sexual relations with, or any of his elders.

In front of his mother-in-law it is especially shameful.

‘I didn’t realise this until the I was having dinner with a Tuareg woman, who had brought her son-in-law as her travelling companion,’ Butler recalled.

‘We were all sitting down to dinner, and the man has his back turned. She said the poor man was completely horrified because he has to eat with his mother-in-law.’

But it is unlikely he would have ever complained about it, or felt sorry from himself. The very idea is horrendous to the Tuareg.

‘You would shame yourself. The Tuareg will go to great lengths to maintain personal dignity. They will suffer,’ said Butler.

‘If they are not offered water, they won’t ask for it – even if they are thirsty.’

Perhaps for this reason, the Tuareg welcome is legendary. They never forget to offer water, and travellers who appear on the horizon will always be ‘treated like a king’.Bond: Every night, the families come together at the tents. The men are traditionally part of the women's group - not the other way roundEvery night, the families come together at the tents. The men are traditionally part of the women’s group – not the other way round.Centre: It means the mother's tent is the heart of the community - although they do not eat together, and do much separatelyIt means the mother’s tent is the heart of the community – although they do not eat together, and do much separatelyBeautiful: It is the men who cover up their faces, while the women are happy to show off their faces - although they often cover their hairIt is the men who cover up their faces, while the women are happy to show off their faces – although they often cover their hairLifeline: The camels are of vital importance in the Sahara, and are often the only thing a man is left with when he gets divorcedThe camels are of vital importance in the Sahara, and are often the only thing a man is left with when he gets divorcedMysterious: A Tuareg man in a traditional indigo veil, which is likely to leave his face with a blue mark across his skinA Tuareg man in a traditional indigo veil, which is likely to leave his face with a blue mark across his skin

THE LEGENDARY QUEEN AT THE TOP OF THE TUAREG FAMILY TREE

The Tuareg’s many small groups are joined together by the same family tree – and at the top of that tree is the person who bought them all together.

And it should probably come as no surprise for a tribe which views women in such regard, that person was a queen.  

Tin Hinan is said to have travelled south from modern day Morocco to what would one day become Algeria in the fourth century, where she became the first queen of the Tuaregs.

It is from Tin Hinan – whose name translates as ‘she of the tents’ – that every noble family is said to descend.

Takamet, her handmaiden who travelled by her side, is believed to be the ancestor of the peasant caste.

It is unlikely there will be any quibbling over who gets what. Pre-nuptial agreements are the norm.

In practice, this often means a man is forced to return home to his mother, possibly with just his camel and nothing else.

Now the Tuareg living in south-western Libya face a new threat – that of ISIS – while those living in Mali, Niger and northern Nigeria now have to contend with the rise of Boko Haram.Opinions: The Tuareg women, seen here arriving at the Tuareg Political Party speech in 2006, may not obviously be part of political life, but their opinion is highly valued by the men, who will likely discuss issues with their mother or wifeThe Tuareg women, seen here arriving at the Tuareg Political Party speech in 2006, may not obviously be part of political life, but their opinion is highly valued by the men, who will likely discuss issues with their mother or wife.

 

Source: DailyMail UK | Henrietta Butler’s new book, Tuareg Time 

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About Peace

Peace is a wife and mother who reports and analyses global trends from the perspective of a Deeva; in the hope of invoking a thought process that will lead to a positive change.

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15 comments

  1. O M G These faces gave me nightmare…horrible!

  2. how is this “islamic” in any way?

    the writer for some reason has loaded this article with so many misleading remarks, which disinforms it’s reader massively to the extent of lying

    islam is about submitting your will to God – following sexual desires as a way of life is the opposite to that.

    if you call yourself a cat, it doesn’t make you a cute furry feline.

    these people are not an “islamic” tribe or anything close.

    the women from the images even look possessed by desert demons – not the traits of muslims at all.

    • Omar, your mind is possed with stupidity.

    • sadly in this matter your opinion doesn’t really matter, sure they don’t “seem” Muslim because they don’t follow a strict set of laws that oppresses them in the same way as a traditional Muslim. The will of God is not the same to you as it is to these people. If God is what “he” claims to be then would “he” not show himself in forms other than how you see him is you yourself and any human ever actually look apon him. Believing in God and following a Religion is not subject to one interpretation. So let’s not call people demonic, that’s purely your truth and not the truth of the universe.

  3. very good information about unknown tribe and its way of life and culture

  4. This is a load of bollocks – not real at all- do not believe this article.
    People who write things like this to gain attention should not be allowed to do so.
    There is no proof no anthropological or factual study and it’s based on Lies. Another internet hoax

    • are you serious Jayde , what makes you dispute this article , have you been to the sahara and met these people ? why then pretend it is a hoax . i am from North Africa and we do have tuaregs in my country and they do live exactly like that , in fact it is the women who get to choose whom to date , they organise parties when the girls reach a certain age , and it is the girls who turn around guys and make their choices .. i bet you media has never told you . they pump you with submissive people all the time .

  5. Good, wondering what the feminists would say!

  6. nice story sadly not true at all… really worrying propaganda actually…

  7. This article is so Orientalist, it sounds like it was written in 1879. The Tuareg Berbers, with many nomadic communities in North Africa’s Sahara (mainly in Algeria), have customs like every other tribe, but they differ per country. The details here are so exaggerated. First of all, most Islamic tribes don’t require women to fully cover her hair. Even in the Middle East, some wear a traditional loose head scarf, which has little to do with religion, as it existed before Islam. The Tuareg men probably cover more of their faces because they’re the ones required to work in the sandy desert, while women remain indoors. I’ve also never heard the claim that women are encouraged to be promiscuous. I find that a bit far-fetched, just because they are matrilineal. If a male is able to share a bed with any woman he pleases during his travels, and he has to leave the tent before dawn, it could mean that it’s a patriarchal society, or one that tolerates prostitution, like any other. You could say the same about Eskimos, when it was tradition to offer a traveller to share a bed with the “housewife”. This was only intended to keep him warm, not to share her body with a stranger. But besides this perhaps being an urban myth, it’s also 2015 and I doubt anyone does that anymore.
    At the end of the day, they’re human beings who have survived centuries of living in the desert, which included French colonialism. Sure, they’ve maintained some beautiful traditions, but what the article forgot to mention is that slavery is still a predominant problem in Tuareg society to this day, despite modernising their communities.
    I find it really bizarre that people believe that a man will not eat in front of a woman he cannot have sex with, or ask for water if he’s thirsty. That’s like believing that they’re still living in the Middle Ages. It’s simply tradition in many Islamic communities that men and women eat separately. As far as thirst is concerned, I suppose it’s considered rude to ask for water in a desert where water is scarce, but then one is expected to offer it to guests, so they don’t have to ask. This also goes beyond the Tuareg tradition.

    I read some other comments here that claim this article is a load of bollocks, and you know what? They’re right!

  8. I have to agree with Nihal, and to add is this article itself is a proof that Hijab or veil or what ever you may call it is more of a traditional than religious thing and it differs vastly across the Islamic world…you may not believe it but even in Qur’an the issue of HIJAB is mentioned in one verse only and the rest of what you hear about it is work of over imaginative clergymen.

  9. MOHAMED MERCHANT.

    THERE COULD BE SUCH PEOPLE ,BUT YOU CANNOT SAY THAT THEY ARE MUSLIM OR BELIEVE IN ISLAM FULLY,SUCH TYPE OF WOMEN WE FIND IN ALMOST EVERY PART OF THIS WORLD WHO WOULD BE SLEEPING WITH DIFFERENT MEN WHEN EVER THEY FEEL LIKE IT.ANOTHER WAY THESE WOMEN IF THEY EXIST THEN DID NOT KNOW OR UNDERSTAND ISLAM FULLY.SIMPLY ONE COVERING THE FACE WITH SOME CLOTHES WILL NOT CONSTITUTE AS ISLAM,OTHER COMMUNITIES ALSO COVER THEIR FACES WITH SOME CLOTH.WHY GO TO AFRICAN DESSERTS ,WE DO NOT FIND SUCH WOMEN IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD EVEN IN THIS AGE.

  10. Revered original African tradition is kept alive here…nothing to do with later day religions!!

  11. I am Algerian – I live in the northern Algerian and I need to tell you that NOTHING IN YOUR ARTICLE IS TRUE. That’s why you need to remove this post, people will believe it.
    Women in south Algeria might seem a little bit free but they are muslims, they do their prayers and APPLY ISLAMIC rules! Alright?
    Don’t tell me this is freedom of expression because it is not. Your freedom of expression stops when you start faking or touching a history of a great country as Algeria or messing with its culture.

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