Kel-Ferwan Tuareg tent

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Kel-Ferwan Tuareg tent

The Tuareg tribes range over a wide area of the western Sahara, living in various types of tents and building their camps out of kel-ferwan, a hut like tent which accommodates an extended family. Only the smallest children live with their parents while the older ones all have their own tents. The tents are small and lightweight, ideal for the nomadic way of life. They tents can be ready to travel within two hours and can be carried by a single camel.

The wife is the owner of the tent, receiving it as a dowry when she is married, after which time putting up, taking down and maintaining the tent are her responsibilities. Erecting the tent begins with carefully placing the bed, which will take up most of the space inside, along an East-West axis, after which the construction of the two metre high, 3-4 m² dome-shaped dwelling can begin. The tent frame is made of acacia roots with a roof and walls made of a fabric woven out of palm leaves, or occasionally out of animal hides, or these days cheap industrial materials. Every element can easily be replaced: the acacia root bent into a arch gains its final shape after a couple of days buried in the ground while the covering is made up of 5-6 smaller pieces which makes it less work replacing a faulty part.

The residents do not have many possessions, only a few kitchen utensils, and have virtually no furniture apart from the bed. They sit on it by day and sleep on it by night. In accordance with their religious beliefs their heads point East with the husband on the northern side of the bed to protect his wife from the harsh northerly winds.

During the day the western wall of the tent is rolled up, unless the wind direction dictates otherwise, and they live mostly in front of the tent, which is also where they cook. It is for just this reason that the tents are aligned in rows along a North-South axis, so that everyone gets the same amount of space on their tent’s open side. In the event of unexpected, sudden sandstorms the walls of the tent can be let down and closed.