Photos Tuareg men gather from all corners of the desert to form a welcome line at ceremonial occasions. Clad in turbans and robes, they show off the handsomeness of their decorated mounts as they greet the guests.Ceremonially adorned, a Tuareg man proudly shows off the beauty of his camel, whose elegant stately pace reflects the high status of his owner. Known as the aristocrats of the desert, the Tuareg are great camel caravaners renowned for their navigation of the Sahara.A Tuareg man, descended from the ancient race of Berbers in North Africa, proudly displays the magnificence of his camel. His dramatically styled headdress reveals his aristocratic status.The groom in a white turban, accompanied by his best friend, makes a formal visit to his bride. For the duration of the week of the wedding, the bride must be hidden from public view. Her tent, covered with palm frond mats and lined with blankets, provides shelter from the sun and prying eyes. Surrounded by her family, she is not allowed to speak to anyone except her husband or immediate family as protection against jealous spirits.In the privacy of her mother’s tent, a fifteen-year-old bride is prepared for her wedding. Her hair is plaited by the wife of the blacksmith, believed by the Tuareg to possess special powers of sorcery. The hair is first rubbed with a mixture of aromatic pomade and fine black sand to enhance its luster, then intricately braided into a traditional bridal style. To beautify her complexion and protect it from the harsh desert sun, a fragrant yellow herbal paste is applied to her face, followed by a red pigment ground from rocks found in the area.The young groom undergoes the ritual decoration of his hands and feet with henna, a reddish-brown dye made from the leaves of an Egyptian privet. Surrounded by his male friends and family, the wives of the blacksmiths coat the nervous young man’s extremities with the dye and wrap them in plastic to intensify the color. Considered to be an effective repellent of evil forces, the application of henna is obligatory for a young man who has never been married.Dressed in their nuptial finery, women arrive on donkeys heavily laden with leather cushions and blankets, the men towering high above them on camels.The wedding guests gather together drawn by the rhythmic drumming of the blacksmiths, announcing that the time for feasting and celebration has finally arrived. The leather cushions and patterned decorations are made by the wives of the blacksmiths especially for the occasion.Proud of their fierce warrior heritage, Tuareg men show off both their handsomeness and that of their camels. With ceremonial turbans and robes and fringed leather bags billowing in the wind they race their camels before the admiring men, women and children.Over a base of yellow powder, a Tuareg woman uses a natural red pigment to draw traditional designs onto her nose, forehead, and cheeks. Her eyes are lined and lips darkened with a powdered black stone. The silver neck pendants she wears are powerful protective talismans.A Tuareg nobleman reveals his status in a gleaming indigo veil and gown. The fabric is sewn together from dozens of half inch-wide strips of handwoven cotton. The indigo dye is beaten into the cloth giving it a lustrous sheen. Everything that touches it takes on blue coloration, including the skin which is why the Tuareg are called ‘blue men of the desert’.The higher the social standing of a Tuareg man the more concerned he will be to conceal his face on meeting strangers. He will make certain that he does not reveal the tip of his nose, and will often hitch the veil so high that only his eyes may be seen.A Tuareg wedding guest replaces her travelling veil with a finely woven indigo cloth. Owing to the fact that its indigo dye remains unfixed, everything that comes into contact with it takes on a blue coloration, including the skin. This blueness is considered by the Tuareg to be very beautiful and women often use the corners of the veils to rub the color onto their lips.Carrying regimental flags in a dramatic procession, Bianou men advance single file in a warlike manner. As they move, a ritualized competition takes place in which the men attempt to outdo one another in style and stamina. Dressed in traditional blue tunics and indigo turbans, the dancers wear embroidered belts bearing amulet boxes containing sacred scripts for good luck.Wearing a white turban , the vice-chief of the west Bianou group of Agadez puts the finishing touches to an indigo Bianou headdress. He and his sons are responsible for dressing everyone who parades with the group.The Bianou ceremonial headdress is fashioned from two lengths of fabric that have been dyed with crushed leaves of the indigofera plant to give them a lustrous sheen. The first piece is wrapped around the head as a turban, and the second is folded to create a pleated crest that stands up like a cockscomb. When a man dances, he gently moves his head back and forth, creating an elegant fanning effect.Inside the palace, a Tuareg follower pays respects to El Hadji Ibrahim Oumarou, Sultan of Aïr, the religious leader of Muslims in the region who oversees the spiritual practices and well-being of 159 Tuareg tribes.Anatafidat El Haj Suleimane Ekade holds a string of prayer beads while he intones passages from the Koran. Born in 1913, he received his title in 1960 and is believed to be the most holy man in Agadez.El Hadji Akine, Chief of the Marabouts, or holy men of Agadez, is the premier advisor to the Sultan of Aïr and one of the traditional leaders to whom the Bianou groups pay respect. Agadez has been one of the most important centers of Islamic study in Africa.A bodyguard of the Sultan, identifiable by his red, white, and blue attire, offers prayers of thanks and asks for blessings from Allah.