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Sahara Desert People & Traditions

The peoples of Africa are often described in terms of their ethnic background or their languages. There are several thousand ethnic groups in Africa, ranging in physical stature from the short Pygmies to the tall Maasai, each with its own cultural traditions.

Most of the people living in Sahara are Nomads. These Nomads, with their herds of sheep and goats and with camels for transportation, predominate in drier areas and continue to use as in centuries past, for water, trade, and provisioning stops. These people are always moving from place to place in search of better living conditions.

It is believed that the first nomadic peoples came to this region after domestic animals were introduced to the Sahara 7,000 years ago. Researchers believe that sheep and goats were introduced to the Sahara region by the Caspian culture of northern Africa.

The major groups of people that live in the Sahara are the Berbers. Earlier Berbers lived across the whole northern part of Africa. Today most of the Berbers live in Morocco and Algeria. They make up 40 percent of Morocco's population and 30 percent of Algeria's population. Berbers live in rural areas where they raise sheep and cattle.

Nowadays, some have even begun growing crops. In the larger villages, Berbers live in stone houses but in the smaller villages they live in tents or clay huts. The principal ethnic groups of the Sahara are the Tuareg (of Berber origin), who dominate the mountains of the central Sahara; the peoples of mixed Berber and Arab origin in W Sahara; and the Tibu (Tébu), who dominate the Tibesti Massif.