Saharawi in Western Sahara

Send Joshua Project a map of this people group.
People Name: Saharawi
Country: Western Sahara
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 263,000
World Population: 665,900
Primary Language: Hassaniyya
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.04 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: Portions
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Arab, Hassaniya
Affinity Bloc: Arab World
Progress Level:

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

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.

Text Source:   Joshua Project