Saharawi in Western Sahara

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

A sub-group of the Moors, they are of mixed Berber, Arab, and black African descent. Originally, the Saharawi were desert nomads who traveled from place to place with their camels. Today, they can be found in the desert in southern Morocco, in the Western Sahara region, in the north of Mauritania, in Algerian refugee camps, and in the Canary Islands. Western Sahara was a Spanish colony, but Spain pulled out in 1976. Then Morocco and Mauritania invaded the former colony. Mauritania pulled out in 1979 but Moroccan troops still occupy the territory. They fight the Polisaro Front, the group fighting for independence for Western Sahara.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Many Saharawi have gotten caught in the fighting and have fled to refugee camps in Morocco. Many others have remained in Western Sahara. These people face constant danger from the Moroccan army and the Polisaro guerillas. Women and children have fled to refugee camps and depend on special programs for basic necessities. Saharawi society consists of four main groups: warriors; marabouts, or holy people; tribute payers, who pay taxes to the higher classes; and black slaves. Craftsmen and musicians form separate, low-caste groups. In the past, differences in social class were clearly marked. The eight Saharawi tribes were constantly at odds with one another, struggling for supremacy. Fighting, robbery, and revenge were the means of surviving drought, plagues. Peace through negotiation always followed. Today, classes serve more as a means of identification rather than a way of life. Some Saharawi are herdsmen, others are traders, and still others are warriors. However, all speak an Arabic dialect called Hassaniya. In addition, their religion, way of life, and dress are Arabic in flavor and style.

What Are Their Beliefs?

While many pre-Islamic beliefs still exist among the Saharawi, they like to think of themselves as pure Muslims, though they are not that orthodox. Like most North African groups, they hold to beliefs that certain dead Muslim teachers have a power that can be accessed for healing through pilgrimage to their grave sites. Some scholars have mentioned that the Saharawi also worship a god known as Sidi Erbbi, who is paternal and full of life.

What Are Their Needs?

The Saharawi live in an area of war and political turmoil. As a result, families have been divided, and many have been displaced in refugee camps. Their desire for political recognition and independence is strong. Fervent intercession must be made if the Saharawi are to find lasting peace in a saving relationship with Christ.

Prayer Points

* Scripture Prayers for the Saharawi in Western Sahara.

Pray for peace in the Western Sahara. Ask God for the formation of Bible believing churches among this people group in Western Sahara. Pray that the Saharawi would come to see Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace and flee to him for refuge. Pray for Christ's ambassadors to go to these Muslims, bearing the sin-forgiving savior.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  

People Name General Saharawi
People Name in Country Saharawi
Pronunciation sah-hah-RAH-wee
Population this Country 263,000
Population all Countries 613,000
Total Countries 5
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 5
Alternate Names Delim; Delim Bedouin; Sahrawi
People ID 14639
ROP3 Code 108512

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Primary Language:  Hassaniyya

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (2002-2005)
Bible-New Testament No
Bible-Complete No
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching (Global Recordings Network)
Audio Recordings Audio New Testament
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories in Hassaniyya
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio (Jesus Film Project)
Film / Video Video / Animation
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Hassaniyya
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels
Film / Video The Prophets' Story
General Gospel resources links (Scripture Earth)
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file from Faith Comes By Hearing
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.04 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
99.86 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.10 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
0.0 %
70.0 %
0.0 %
Other Christian
0.0 %
30.0 %
Roman Catholic
0.0 %
Photo Source EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid  Creative Commons 
Profile Source Joshua Project  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more


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