Sahrawi, Western Sahara Culture

Sahrawi, Western Sahara Culture

Music and dance

They have their own instruments to make music. As the basis of the characteristic Saharawi rhythm, the tubal or wooden drum is used, different in size, shape and sound from the Moroccan gidra, made of clay lined with skin.

The folk ceremony of the Saharawi festivals has a fundamental actor: the igiu. The igaguen are highly admired by the people. Saharawi music is based on seven ranges, associated with the western concept of the mode, and the five basic rhythms, which are linked respecting established links. Each of these ranges consists of several modal formulas, with their corresponding rhythmic and melodic patterns. Instruments are tuned differently for each of them. Each range is characterized not only by its particular musical content, but also by thematic circumstances, moods, etc. The liyen, for example, is usually loving, sentimental, and is expressed in classical Arabic.

Poetry is generally sung in classical Arabic, although poetry by contemporary authors also abounds, in the form of memorized verses that are rarely improvised. The melismatic adornment in the prolongation of the syllables, the use of onomatopoeias, the repetition of refrains, etc., are tools frequently used in the songs of Western Sahara.

The poetry, the dance and music are the basis of their culture and are perfectly rich and cultured. Poetry is present in many daily activities. The movements in Saharawi dances are smooth and stylized, with the hands, decorated, and the fingers, darkened with henna, those that draw the work of percussion in the air or on the body. The narrative, even pedagogical character of the Saharawi dances is extraordinary.


According to Justinshoes, Saharawi Arab literature, located within the great Islamic cultural framework, has an individuality that dignifies and distinguishes it. Its two Golden Ages are presented embracing the classical culture of Islam, producing commentators and authors of great culture and fruitful work. This manifests itself in the two great schools of thought:

  • Scholars of Tiris
  • Santones and Talmidis of Smara

The lekhta is the art of poetic improvisation, so deeply rooted and characteristic of the residents of Western Sahara. It develops between the poets belonging to the different groups facing each other in representation. Hasanian literature, composed especially of poems, is preserved in the oral and written tradition.

Featured Writers

  • Emhammed El Tolba, grammarian and poet.
  • Semyedre Uld Habibal-la, who finished his teaching days at Cairo University.
  • Mohammed El Maami, specialized in geographic texts and regional songs.


In the past, artisans did not enjoy the prestige and recognition that is currently granted to them. Artisans traditionally offered their services in exchange for food and protection. They produced instruments of luxury or useful for life in the desert. Sahrawi art stands out for working with miniatures, an art of apparent simplicity with geometric motifs that hide meanings that are difficult for non-experts to decipher.


The Sahrawis share with Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Mauritania and the entire Arab world their own right. The school that is followed in the Sahara is the Cheraa. Sharing law, based on Khalil’s work, is common to all of Muslim Africa, yet each country has its own commentators and interpreters. In this sense, Western Sahara has a true group of scholars who specify the particular Saharawi interpretation of this right.

The law is regulated through the Aadat, common law writings, instructions for the issuance of judgments, and collections of failed cases that help the Kadi or Judge to make their decisions based on their own jurisprudence.


The family

The Sahrawis have a family under a patriarchal regime, whose acts are regulated through a ritual that they respect. They live in tents with poor trousseau, except for some sedentary who inhabit masonry houses with hollow roofs due to the climate and which are known as egg houses. Children are not considered as members of the family group until they do the first Ramadan. Marriage is effected in two ways:

  • The private wedding: Held between people who are older or have been married, the celebrations are reduced to one day.
  • The public wedding: Where the two spouses marry for the first time, the celebration lasts up to 7 days with songs, dances and a profusion of tea.

The preliminaries begin with the treatment established by both parties based on the acidaque of honor or price of the bride that each Kabila has, but that does not correspond to the price that is actually paid for it, generally consisting of 2 camels, 7 pieces of cloth. and a silver anklet or bangle. Next comes the jotba or request for a hand and the preparation of a special tent for the wedding.

It is customary at funerals, after burial, to give a meal to the men and place 2 stones in the male graves, one at the head and the other at the feet, while in those of the women one more is placed on the belly.


The Saharawi dress is particularly characteristic. The masculine is composed of derrásyabadurfuquía and izam or turban.

The female is composed of the Melfa, the chmir and hoist. Other characteristic elements of women, such as the hairstyle, totally vary:

  • South: A complicated hairdo in the form of a bow is raised on the head.
  • North: The hairstyle is done to one side or parted in the middle.

Sahrawi, Western Sahara Culture

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