The tent of the Imuhar (Tuareg) is the central living space of women in which the man seems to be guests only. Tents are named after the wife. She is the owner of the tent. If the married couple gets divorced the husband not only loses his wife but also the tent and his accommodation. He is then forced to move in with his relatives. For the nomad woman the tent is the centre of her world of work. She is tied to the tent while nomad men travel for days without a tent. The tent is commonly called Ehan (Pl: Ihanan).

  • Nomads in Algeria use gable tents.
  • Nomads in Mali use pyramid tents.
  • Nomads in Niger use dome tents.

Nowadays the separation is not as strict anymore and eg. nomads in Niger as well use gable tents.


Among Imuhar nomads (Tuareg) three types of tent roofs can be found. 

Ahakit / Tent with a leather roof

(Foto from Nicolaisen/Nicolaisen 1997)

The traditional leather tent is made by women. It is made out of goat leather that has been dyed red and has an area of about 3 x 5 meters. The substructure is made of wood. 

A tarpaulin made out of stitched-together goat skin is stretched over everything. A big tent normally consists of five lengths of seven skins. The production takes place in the form of collective labour by women. The new owner of the tent is responsible for catering the helpers. As a final step the tarpaulin is impregnated with butter and red ochre. The impregnation needs to be renewed on a regular basis. Partly, the goat skins are donated by the neighbours.

Nowadays an Akahit is hardly found among nomads.

Esedekan / Tent with a cloth roof

The substructure made of wood is identical to that of the Ahakit. However, the roof consists of old pieces of clothing. An Esedekan is primarily used in summer.

Algadun / Tent with a linen roof

A linen tent has about 3 x 5 meters floor space and the line roof is obtained in the oases. The covering is stretched on the traditional wooden structure. This is currently the preferred type of accommodation.

Efi / Windbreak

An Efi is merely a wind barrier. Either the linen sheet of Algadun is merely used as a wall or alternatively an old Tesirnest (wrap robe) is placed in a semicircle as a form of wind protection. This ‘tent’ type is used in warm summer months.


The former three tent types are gable tents based on three axes. These axes are two posts connected with a bar. The axis in the middle is slightly higher than the two lateral axes, where also the luggage usually hangs on. This frame is  made of wood. 




The furnishing of tents is an individual process. Nonetheless, the tents remain similar in their basic structure. The right part of the tent is assigned to the wife. The kitchen is in the front. This is where all kitchen utensils and the milk are stored and the cooking takes place. Most of the times the woman’s saddle (Tachawit) can be found there as well. During the day the blankets for the night are usually placed on it. The left part is the man’s area. Here he stores his saddle (Tarik) as well as all his tools he needs for his work with the dromedaries. Children normally sleep in the right part on the floor in the sand with a blanket. The married couple sleeps in the left part. Their heads are always pointing south as does the main opening of the tent that is usually kept open.

TAWSET/TIWASATEN (also the name of one group of Tuareg)

Floor mat made of Afazo-grass fixed with leather straps and with a leather hem. It used as a seat and a sleeping mat. Nowadays it is hardly used anymore.

ESABAR (wind barrier mats)

As a form of wind barrier mats are stuck into the sand. The Esabar/Isebran is made of Afazo grass that is held together by leather straps. Often patterns are woven into the mat and leather fringes are used for decorating the upper edge. These windbreakers are about one metre high and several metres long. They are usually placed underneath a leather tent. Nowadays they are still used either in connection with the Esedekan or as “guest rooms”.

TEMSI (fire place)

Situated closely in front of the tent the fireplace is the central part of the living space of the tent. Tea is boiled, bread is baked and milk gets heated on it. But the fire isn’t just used for cooking but it is also the source of light, the heating and the place where guests are welcomed. Usually the man sits to the left and the woman to the right. Male visitors are then placed next to the man while female guests sit down next to the woman.

The fire is able to “speak”: Whenever good, big red acacia wood is used the guest is someone important. Smaller twigs are used when a common guest comes by. When wood is still put on the fire the guest is invited to stay longer. Not putting any wood is a request for the guest to leave. The fireplace has to be treated with respect at all times. 


The Imuschar (Tuareg of Mali) nomads use tents of Mauritanian origin.


The tent is rectangular and has a high mullion. Three to five slanted posts, which are anchored on the outside, form the four sides. It is a rectangular tent with a high mullion. A tarpaulin out of old clothing or linen is tightened around the construction. The tent does not need any crossbeams. 


The preferred tent of the Imascheren (Tuareg of Niger) nomads is a stable dome tent that is covered with mats. The mats are made of palm tree leaves. Nowadays, a plastic tarpaulin is usually tightened over the mats to protect the tent against rain. Dome tents are heavy and typically equipped with a sturdy bed. Since the nomads in the Ayr normally only move places once a year a fence is usually built around the tent for protection eg. from the herd. 


The tents are made out of five axes. The middle axis is the highest arch, flanked by two lower arches left and right. The outer axes are two low posts with crossbar. Multiple roof bars are fixed in a right angle to the axes. Large oval straw mats are placed on top of the construction. 


The wooden beds are able to be dismantled. They consist of two pole elements with plate like ends. Between the poles crossbars with mats are fixed. The beds are about 170 x 170 cm big.

ASNEM/ISENAM (pillars)
Posts with an arched top are always set up in pairs. The sheep blankets are stored on them during the day.

Three-armed arched holder on a wooden post that is about 150 cm high. The milk bowl is usually placed in there. 

Glossary Household