THE TUAREG SALT CARAVANS OF NIGER AFRICA BY FRANCO PAOLINELLI

CARAVANS OF SALT - TUAREG TRADE ROUTES IN NIGER

Page 2/5
 
 
Situated on the Kaouar's escarpments southernmost edge, Bilma is the regional administrative centre. The inhabitants, like Fachi, are Kanouri. The salt pits of Kalala - the salt producing district - date back at least a millenium, and are still vitally imortant. In fact, Bilma's salt output has actually increased, though the bulk is now transported by trucks. A heavy brine is found here by digging pits six to eight metres deep. These oblong pits are arranged in groups with a low stone wall marking each holding's boundary. The rains of summer 2006 inundated and temporarily destroyed many pits.
 
Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa
A life giving glass of tea or 'chai'. Within the harsh and frugal world of caravans, the delicate preparation of tea seems strangely out of place. Small enamel tea pots and glasses are handled with great care and cleaned immaculately
Salt extraction is basically a simple though tedious procedure. High summer temperatures and evaporation cause a salty crust to crystalize over the brine surface. The crust is continuously broken down,causing fragments to sink and compose a sediment. The sediment's upper layer yields the purest salt, known respectively as 'egil' or 'beza' by the Tuareg and Hausa, and destined for human consumption. The pillars are called 'takiss' or kantou' and weigh 21 kilos. Small cake shaped moulds - 'fochi' weigh 2 kilos, and are of the same mix as pillars. Both these forms are from impure salt and for livestock. Kanouri women visit the caravan camps to barter and gossip. Bartering ratios remain fairly constant at three volumes of dates for two of millet. Only drought and conflict drastically alters this balance. Trucks also enter Kalala to load the smaller and less fragile 'fochi' mould. There has been a tendency by journalists, and some ethnologists, to romantacize and portray caravans as " doomed by the combustion engine". This is misleading. True, the Tuareg no longer hold a monopoly on salt distribution and transport, and caravan numbers are falling, but their economy has survived remarkably well, and profit margins on salt sales compared to millet prices broadly in line with thirty years ago - even taking into account the CFA devaluation in 1994.
 
Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa
The 'taguelmoust' may be slackened or removed when working or in the company of friends
Facing east, against bitingly cold winds, a caravaneer prays to Allah
Trucks obtain salt by off loading supplies of various goods - macaroni, oil, flour, through a complex system involving the village headmen or 'chef du quartiers', who in turn pass the goods to the salt workers on a pro rata basis - hard cash is seldom used. The Kanouri much prefer dealing with caravaneers, and two forms of 'fochi' are now made - a slightly larger version and of superior quality is reserved for the Tuareg.
 
Buyers in the salt markets of southern Niger and Nigeria are well aware of this. Whenever I ask a Tuareg what he thinks about trucks, the answer invariably is "Bilma has a lot of salt." Bonds of mutual help and benefit between Tuareg and Kanouri go back a long way. Often I have seen Kanouri women passing up a chance to trade, waiting patiently instead for their usual caravneer to arrive.
 
Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa
Following the piste towards the solitary Mount Amzeqeur
The ritual of 'Ragu'.Young novices, referred to as 'ragu' - sheep, are subjected to a mock attack on their first crossing of the Tenere
Dusk over the beautiful and isolated Fachi oasis
 
Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa
Caravan crossing the Tenere's dunes towards the oases of Fachi and Bilma
Sheep and goats are often carried across the Tenere atop camels
Tuareg
 
In the photographs above a caravan crossing the Tenere's dunes towards the oases of Fachi & Bilma. Each camel bears two fodder bales and two goatskins of millet for bartering against dates. A goat - for bartering against salt - is perched on a camel. The 'madagu's experience here is invaluable - he will guide the caravan safetly through the dunes. Sheep and goats are often carried across the Tenere atop camels. Both Fachi & Bilma lack fresh meat. If a cash sale is not possible, they are bartered for salt & goods.
 
Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa Tuareg Salt Caravans Niger Africa
Caravans camped outside Fachi oasis
Bilma. Salt deposits crystalize on the surface
A 'marabout' or holyman of Fachi
Kanouri woman of Fachi barters dates for millet
 
Above caravans camped outside Fachi oasis. Fachi provides a welcome respite, and most caravans spend a day here before pressing on to Bilma - another four days. Fachi's salt is deemed inferior to that of Bilma. Bilma. Salt deposits crystalize on the surface - the water table is only a few feet deep. A 'marabout' or holyman of Fachi. Fachi has many marabouts, who make a living by offering prayers for the safety of caravans. The Tuareg, as tradition demands, must obtain their blessing before departure, for which they pay a token amount - either cash or goods. Kanouri woman of Fachi barters dates for millet. Strong bonds of mutual help and benefit have long existed between both parties. Bartering ratios are affected by famine or conflict, but generally, two volumes of millet are exchanged for three of dates.
 
 
Tuareg of the African Sahara
Africa Rock Art Archive
 
bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates

Email

First Name

Last Name

Country

Prints
Podcast
bradshaw foundation podcast
DVD
bradshaw foundation ishop dvd
Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Join the free Mailing List Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Coso Range Nevada Oregon Territory Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Ian Wilson Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Portable Art Research Paper Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Tanum Rock Art Museum Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes List of Research Papers Other Websites Contact the Foundation