Ahaggar Mountain And Tuareg Blue People
Deep in the Sahara is a land whose landscape, legends, and inhabitants may inspire stories about end of the world…
If you go south of the oasis of Salah, towards the center of a large desert, you start slowly in this opaque climate to recognize a solid, darkened shape stretching on both sides.
Gradually you realize it’s a high and seemingly endless cliff, the northernmost bed of Algeria’s massive Ahaggar (Hoggar). Even in the algerian list of incredible natural beauty, this mountain stands out as a huge island, roughly the size of France, lying in the middle of the Saharan oceans.
On three sides is surrounded by high cliffs, and in the west it slowly descends and turns into Tanezrouft, a land of thirst, in which once the travelers who would leave the caravans were sentenced to death.
Although Ahaggar, also called Hoggar, is usually referred to as a mountain chain, it is actually a granite plateau. At its center, in the area of Atakor, the lava river covered the granite with 180 m of basalt, which was broken into the surface of a large volcano of volcanic slag.
From such a surface, up to 3000 meters high, an incredible array of different towers, staircases and fonolite needles are built. After it cooled down, the rock broke into long prismatic shapes, which are mostly interconnected to remind the organ pipes, but much of it resembles to huge asparagus.
In the part of Atakora that covers 777 square meters, there are more than 300 such monoliths, which add to the more surprising shapes of this amazing landscape. The Nomadic people of Tuarezi, who inhabited Ahaggar for more than 2000 years, called this area Assakrem or “end of the world”.
There is no vegetation in the Ahaggar mountains, and the plant cover is very small in the entire Ahaggar massive area. Rain falls rarely and in small quantities, but in some steep canyons, which prevent rapid evaporation, rainwater collects in small pools that allow green growth and create the appearance of cold. No matter how small they are, these pools are extremely important to the flock of the Tuareg people.
Tuareg – the Blue People of the Sahara
Tuareg people who live in Ahaggar are fascinating people. Men are tall, bright, and wearing a veil – some say it protects them from evil spirits that can enter their mouths.
They carry long swords and daggers and shields made of antelope leather. Some believe that they are the descendants of the mysterious chariot drivers who left Libya around 1000 BC, and are depicted on the drawings on the rocks in Tassili.
Their name, Tuareg, is the Arabic word meaning “abandoned from God”, since they have transformed themselves too late to Islam and still have certain objections to the most striking beliefs. Women do not wear veils and have a great impact on the family, and their marriages are usually monogamous.
By the end of the 19th century, Tuareg people ruled most of the Sahara desert, from the oaks in Tamanrasset and In Salah, where they traded with whitewash, gold and slaves, and the revenues were supplemented by charging for the protection of the caravans that passed here.
When in 1881 they heard that such a life could be endangered by the French plans to build a highway via Sahara, they committed a massacre of almost the entire expedition that was sent to investigate the possible route.
Although the expedition was poorly organized and poorly guided, and members of the tribes were armed only with medieval weapons, the speed of the Tuareg attack and their frightening appearance in the French eyes left the impression of invincibility.
The French talked legends about Tuaregs. The most powerful of them is the story of the novel Pierre Benoit L’Atlantid, written in 1919. It tells about Antinea, the beautiful Queen of Atlantis, who lives in the castle in the Ahaggar Mountains, where she invades and kills young French soldiers. In 1925 archaeologists announced the discovery of a female skeleton that was buried with all royal honors. In the media, that was immediately proclaimed as the skeleton of Antinea.
French officers came to the mountains in large numbers for further evidence, and even the great explorer Henri Lhote could not resist the legends. In 1928, in a secluded cave, he discovered a painting on a rock depicting a woman whose breasts were painted in white, and claimed that it was Antinea, an unforgettable seducer from the Ahaggar Mountains.
Who was Charles de Foucauld
When he visited Sahara in 1883, the young Frenchman Charles de Foucauld was thrilled with the desert and its inhabitants. He renounced his money and position, became a priest, and in 1902 he built a mission in Tamanrasset.
There he lived in pretty poor manhood, and he dedicated his life to the Tuarezes as their physician, friend and guardian at times of shortage. His lust was brought to him by the solitude that radiated the desert and the mountains, especially among the high rocks of Assemyr, where he was going to live as a hermit.
He was called “Marabutto,” a man of pray, and the great leader of the Hoggar tribe, Musa Ag Amastan, honored his friendship.
De Foucauld was killed, possibly accidental, during the rebellion in Tamanrasset in 1916, launched by the Turks.
After the First World War, his notes were found. After reading them, some people decided to follow his example and stay alive in his spirit. Thus were born “Little Brothers” and “Little Jesus’ Sisters”, a community that Charles dreamed of, today, spread throughout the world.