From Avaria
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Tessouare comprise a widespread group of peoples residing in northern Idiri and throughout the Great Hazari Desert. Influenced by their extensive contact with the Sirdabi, Tessouare culture nevertheless retains deep Idiri roots. Along with individuals of Bissenke heritage, they make up a large part of the population of the Emirate of Koumbasi, but they display a variety of lifestyles and are just as likely to be found wandering the desert in nomadic tribes as they are to be settled in farming villages and cities. They tend to have an independent spirit and are considered by many non-Tessouare to be intractably stubborn.


Tessouare are generally medium- to dark-skinned, with complexions ranging from light bronze and ruddy-gold through a deep coffee brown. Their features tend towards the aquiline, and they have bright jewel-toned eyes, often deep-set beneath a firm brow. Tessouare can have hair that is anywhere from a light reddish- or blondish-brown to a very deep black, with dark brown and plain black the most common. Regardless of color, it is always frizzy to kinky in texture and both women and men are extremely proud of their hair -- the women loving to dress it in elaborate braids, and the men boasting a scalplock into which the signs of their clan are braided.


The language of the Tessouare shares the name of the people themselves, being quite simply called Tessouare. It is in wide currency across the lands of north Idiri and the Hazari Desert, and is spoken even by many non-Tessouare in those areas. In its written form it uses the Sirdabi script, and most Tessouare are fluent or nearly so in both languages.


The Tessouare are grouped into large tribes, generally identified by the name of a single exalted ancestor (or, more frequently, ancestress). From there they are broken down into a great profusion of clans, and a still greater profusion of enclaves (in settled areas) or bands (among traveling nomads). The tribes themselves are also grouped, with several different tribes sharing the same prefix that denotes an ancestral allegiance to one of the great ancient kingdoms of the Tessouare.

In northern Tessere and Koumbasi, the chief tribal grouping is the Tas, and the most prestigious tribe is the Tas Souare. The Tas Baghril is also important in Tessere, and the Tas Izili in Koumbasi.

In the Hazari desert interior, particularly among the mountains, the chief tribal grouping is the Haz, and the most prestigious tribes are the Haz Moulayna and the Haz Naravi.

In Ifru and western Raziya, the chief tribal grouping is the Ift, and the most prestigious tribe is the Ift Tassadit. Ift Aksil exists as a geographically isolated branch that resides in the north of the Gilded Plain.

In eastern Raziya, the chief tribal grouping is the Anz, and the only tribe is the Anz Tafrara, or People of the Dawn. However there are still multiple clans, most notably the Red Dawn and Rain Wind clans of al-Sakhna, and the Blue Cloud clan of Cape Sorrow.


The Tessouare are a proud and strong-minded people among whom ideas of independence, status, and self-sufficiency are exalted. While generally accepting of their place within the Sirdabi Caliphate, they prefer to be governed by their own kind and strongly dislike having their own practices judged and meddled with by outsiders -- although they are also flexible pragmatists who can adapt to new ways if they are judged by the Tessouare themselves to be of value.

Tessouare society is hierarchical and semi-feudal, with a warrior nobility at the top, above descending ranks of vassals. This hierarchy is based almost entirely on honor and prestige, with little emphasis placed on material wealth. Higher-ranking families are served by a class of hereditary serfs, who may act as personal servants, or work as farmers and tenders of orchards settled at oases. But even the lowest classes typically have a very strong sense of pride, and it is said that if given the choice a Tessouare would choose to stay a serf laboring to serve a Tessouare master in the desert wilderness, than become a pampered courtier in Sirdab itself and bear the humiliation of serving a stranger. This is, of course, a stereotype, but it is true that Tessouare have a vast pride in their heritage and a deep sense of belonging among their people.

Men and women in Tessouare society are considered more or less equal but dominate different spheres of influence, and particularly in town and village the sexes tend to remain quite separate outside the house. Women are respected and relatively free, though in truth women and men alike may be quite restricted in terms of what is considered proper for their sex. Women generally have a lesser place in public life and large-scale governance, but they typically have their own public spaces and their own councils to deal with things considered women's affairs -- typically matters of intra- (and sometimes inter-) village diplomacy, maintenance and distribution of food supplies, fruit and vegetable raising and harvesting, and the resolution of disputes. Men play a far larger role as leaders in tribal government, whether in the realm of politics or war, but women more commonly serve as practical administrators and mediators -- perhaps influenced by their Bissenke neighbors, who tend to view men as too distractible and emotionally volatile for such activities. Women in the nomadic tribes of the Hazari Desert are generally the freest of all Tessouare women, and the sexes are the most at ease with one another there.

In village life, as well as cities whose population is chiefly Tessouare, public spaces tend to be highly segregated between women and men. Men have the use of the streets and plazas, while women carry out their business either indoors or above street level -- for in most towns and cities an elaborate network of stairways, rooftop terraces, and elevated galleries are capable of conducting women from one side of town to another without setting foot on the ground. When women must go out on the street, or men must come up to the rooftops, to avoid embarrassing both themselves and the opposite sex custom demands that they drape themselves from at least crown to knee with a long veil or cloak, which they use to cover their faces as well -- pinching the fabric up near their face so that they can see with a single eye. Standards are more relaxed out in the open spaces of the surrounding countryside, where women may go to tend their gardens and men their fields and herds with only their heads covered, though some may still cover their faces as well by their own choice.

Places considered men's spaces therefore include the streets and the pasture lands, as well as a central meeting space in which they gather to conduct meetings, engage in town politics, share stories and gossip, and even work on handicrafts such leatherwork. Women's spaces are the upper levels of town and their fruit and vegetable gardens outside it, the main well that usually lies outside the town gates, and their own meeting space in a central rooftop terrace. The primary space for women, however, is the home, where they carry out many of their family chores, tend their children, and entertain female guests. They are almost entirely in charge of household affairs, including safekeeping and maintaining food stores. Men often have their own guest chamber, and women and men may also mingle in the central room without impropriety, though younger and especially unmarried individuals should not be left alone one-on-one. Elders have more freedom to do as they like, and the oldest woman in the household might as well be the queen of her domestic domain.

Typically there is one public space designated as a place for women and men to meet, generally to make joint decisions about village life on the occasions where a matter is deemed critical to the entire village. In Tessouare thinking this is a liminal and inherently dangerous space, where boundaries are crossed and relations are fluid. As such, it must be ritually warded before the morning and purified after, typically by a local member of a holy marabout family.


The vast majority of Tessouare follow the Azadi religion and are relatively orthodox in their practices. This is especially the case along the Adelantean coast, where connections to the Sirdabi heartland are strong. On the southern fringes of the Hazari Desert and in some mountain enclaves, Azadi worship may be lightly touched with shamanic beliefs and practices, and the spirits of nature and the ancestors still respected alongside the overarching worship of the One True God. A few clans are entirely pagan, which tends to be more common where contact with their sub-Hazaran neighbors is both close and cordial.

The chief way in which Tessouare worship differs from the core practices of Azadi is in their veneration of saints, often called marabouts. These saints are individuals who displayed great holiness and power during their lives, and who have generally passed on at least a part of this holy power to some of their descendants. Thus the Tessouare provinces are sprinkled not just with saints but with saintly families, who often live in small semi-fortified enclaves called waziya. The waziya play a vital role as waystations offering hospitality and protection along major trading routes, and can also be important sites of pilgrimage in themselves. All hostilities must be laid aside when entering the waziya's area of influence, ensuring peace even among members of warring clans. For this reason, many waziyas are the sites of markets and seasonal trading fairs in addition to places of refreshment and lodging. The saintly are often called on to mediate disputes as well as to grant blessings.


The Tessouare have called north Idiri home for time out of mind, and for as long as anyone can remember have been the dominant people of much of that region. Though they have more often than not been broken up into tribes, and for several centuries into warring kingdoms, since the advent of the Sirdabi and the spread of Azadi they have come to proudly identify themselves as a single people distinguished from their conquerors and colonizers.

The Tessouare like to claim that they possessed one of the great early empires of the Adelantean world, but in truth the so-called Souarean Empire was more a federation of kingdoms and chiefdoms that came together just long enough to defend themselves against the Malevoli threat, and subsequently broke up to resume their former rivalries. The kingdoms of Souare, Haza, Iftrou, and Anzagh claimed much of north Idiri, along with the shifting federation of desert tribes known as the Tassilit. These kingdoms played an important part in the ancient Adelantean world, both forming alliances with and opposing other powers such as the Ruvan Empire and the Yemelite city-states. Their famed cavalry, with its combination of swift-striking ghamuul units and heavy horse, was also sought after as mercenary support in various regional conflicts. But the kingdoms never again united as they had against the Malevoli, and eventually some were conquered by the Ruvans while others -- particularly Iftrou -- were absorbed and became intricately entwined with the culture and fortunes of the Empire.

By the time of the Sirdabi colonizations and conquests, the Tessouare had lost most of their political cohesiveness and no longer dwelt in anything recognizable as kingdoms, though memories of their glory days remained -- and remain even now -- a heritage of which they are proud. But ultimately the people who still call themselves the Tessouare after their ancient empire preferred the autonomy of smaller-scale self-governance, and most retain a stubbornly independent spirit even though now living in provinces as integral members of the Sirdabi Caliphate.

See also