Tea in the desert

Tuareg TeaAfter encountering an article on the band Tinariwen, I went searching for some additional information on them. Their music is a distinctive blend of multiple traditions, including those of the members’ own Tuareg culture from Mali.

As I browsed the names of the songs for which there were videos, one title caught my eye: “Iswegh Attay,” which I suspected meant something to do with “tea” since I knew that the Moroccan Arabic word for tea is “Atay” (اتاي).  As I began to watch, I was pleased to discover a beautiful film of a man brewing and serving tea in the traditional manner of the Tuareg nomads. This way of tea is similar among many of the desert cultures of Western and Northern Africa. It differs from the Moroccan tradition in its absence of fresh mint and use of much plainer, rustic tea wares.

From the band’s website:

TINARIWEN’S OWN STORY BURGEONS WITH MYTH AND MYTHOS IN THEIR HOME COUNTRY AND BEYOND. THEIR TALE IS THE STUFF OF LEGENDS. FOUNDING MEMBER IBRAHIM AG ALHABIB, GREW UP IN DESOLATION IN MALI, WHERE HE WITNESSED HIS OWN FATHER’S DEATH AT THE AGE OF FOUR. LATER, AFTER SEEING A WESTERN FILM, HE BUILT HIS FIRST GUITAR FROM A BICYCLE WIRE, A STICK AND A TIN CAN. THE BAND WAS FOUNDED IN THE 1980’S IN TUREG CAMPS IN LIBYA, WHERE THE NOMADIC PEOPLES HAD RELOCATED TO FIND WORK AND A NEW LIFE AWAY FROM THEIR HOMELAND OF THE SAHARA. DISILLUSIONED BY THE PROMISES OF QUADDAFI AT THE TIME, THE TUAREG BECAME RESTLESS AGAIN AND LONGED FOR HOME. BUT THE INTERACTION WITH CITY LIFE YIELDED UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES, THE BECAME EXPOSED TO WESTERN MUSIC — MOST NOTABLY THE GUITAR-DRIVEN ANTHEMS OF JIMI HENDRIX AND THE AMERICAN BLUES — WHICH THEY MIXED WITH THEIR OWN SOULFUL DIRGES WHICH THEY’D PERFORM IN THE CAMPS BY THE FIRE WITH BATTERY-OPERATED AMPS.

One translated line of the song: “I drank a glass of tea that scorched my heart.

Read more about the method of brewing and serving tea shown in the video on the Cultural Website of the Sahara. The photo of the Tuareg man pouring tea accompanying this article is used under Creative Commons license, and was taken by Garrondo.

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12 Comments

  1. It’s great to drink tea with different traditions, we can gef different tasts

  2. Thank you for sharing! And happy 2015 to you and the best wishes for the shop!

  3. This is the kind of story which gets me going. The cultures and connections between people and tea are always so infused with a depth of character I consistently find appealing.

    Thanks for the great read!

  4. Great blog, spend quite a while reading the posts. you should definitely do a review about ginseng tea it seems like a interesting type of a tea plus if all the claimed benefits are really true it would be such awesome addition to any tea lovers shelf.

  5. It looks like Morocco? :et’s add your posts to our newsletter! http://tea-weekly.com

  6. Wow! A truly great post! The video is so beautiful! I must say I do enjoy reading your blog! Very inspiring. With much thanks.

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  8. I really had a good read with this one. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I can’t wait to watch the video…but before I forget, I’ve always wondered why they hold the teapot up so high when pouring tea? I wonder if I should do that when I pour my regular black tea…I would probably surely spill it all over myself.

  10. Also, there isn’t a single post on the Iranian tea culture…I’m pretty sure we invented tea.

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  12. Great post, Cinnabar. A long the lines of what Chris Giddings said, it is amazing how with all our differences in cultures and ethos, a simple thing like tea can bring us together.