Dassine, Sultane du Désert


  Moussa Ag-Amestane




ho was Dassine?

Her real name was Dassine Oult Yemma.  Queen of the desert, she was the greatest “queen of love”.  She was a messenger of peace between feuding groups of Touareg.

  • “Water itself whispers ‘I love you’ as it touches our lips with the lightest of kisses.
  • “What’s the point of these veils under which you hide yourself – I shrug them aside just as the sun shrugs off the clouds;  your real thoughts come always from your heart and in your breath.”

(Dassine - Touareg poetess).


Charles de Foucault wrote:

“Dassine Ult Lhemma is the older sister of Axamuk (1).  She is married to a man called Afelan.  Throughout the Ahaggar, there is no woman who surpasses Dassine.  She is a tall woman, with a fair light-brown complexion.  Her face is beautiful.  Her eyes are magnificent:  laughing, and full of expression.  She has brilliant white teeth.  She is stylish and elegant.  She is a great violin [Imzad] player.  She makes pleasant conversation.  She is extremely intelligent.  There is no – or scarcely any – man in the Ahaggar who has as much spirit as Dassine.

She is a real queen.  Before she got married, she was the only one that all the men sought.  And even now that she is married, there are many who still have a secret passion for her.  Moreover, no-one has ever heard it said that she ever did anything wrong:  she was afraid of dishonour.

Before her marriage, Musa ag Amastan (2) was in love with Dassine.  He hoped to marry her.  He was among the Adghag of Ifoghas when he learned that she had got married.  Musa also loved a woman of the Ifoghass:  she was very beautiful, and her name was Lalla ult illi.  Her father was Amenukal (chief?) of the Ifoghas.  When Musa fell in love with her, she was already married – her husband was Etteyub.


  • 1- Axamuk ag lhemma was one of the chiefs of the Kel-Ghela, the foremost noble tribe of the Ahaggar (C.F.).  He had been ‘amenukal’ from 1921 to 1941:  his son Bey ag Axamuk was the last ‘amenukal’ of the Ahaggar from 1950 until 1975, the date of his death.
  • 2- Mira ag Amastan:  currently ‘amenukal’ of the Ahaggar, first cousin of Dassine (C.F.).  Musa and Dassine remained, for the first half of the 20th century, the best exemplars of the traditional warrior, chivalrous and literary values of the civilisation of the Touareg of the Ahaggar.  Many poems were dedicated to Dassine (see Foucault, Poetry, 110,219,541).

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