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is an indigo
Indigo dye is an organic compound with a distinctive blue color . Historically, indigo was a natural dye extracted from plants, and this process was important economically because blue dyes were once rare. Nearly all indigo dye produced today — several thousand tons each year — is synthetic...
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....
garment with the appearance of both a veil
A veil is an article of clothing, worn almost exclusively by women, that is intended to cover some part of the head or face.One view is that as a religious item, it is intended to show honor to an object or space...
and a turban
In English, Turban refers to several types of headwear popularly worn in the Middle East, North Africa, Punjab, Jamaica and Southwest Asia. A commonly used synonym is Pagri, the Indian word for turban.-Styles:...
. The cloth may exceed ten meters in length. It is worn mostly by Tuareg men, but is sometimes used by men in other neighbouring ethnic groups, such as the Hausa
The Hausa are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. They are a Sahelian people chiefly located in northern Nigeria and southeastern Niger, but having significant numbers living in regions of Cameroon, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Chad and Sudan...
or Songhai. In recent times, other colors have come into use, with the indigo veils saved for use on special occasions. It usually has many layers that cover the head and it drapes down to loosely cover the neck. It is also worn by some French people as a scarf.
The tagelmust is a very practical garment for the Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...
region, as it both covers the head and prevents the inhalation of wind borne sand. The indigo is also believed by many of the wearers to be healthy and beautiful, with a buildup of indigo in the skin of the wearer being generally considered a good thing. Because the tagelmust is often dyed by pounding in dried indigo instead of the normal process due to a lack of water, the dye often permanently leaches into the skin of the wearer. As such the Tuareg are often referred to as the "blue men of the desert".
Among the Tuareg, men who wear the tagelmust are called Kel Tagelmust
, or "People of the Veil". The tagelmust is worn only by adult males, and only taken off in the presence of close family. They believe that doing this wards off evil spirits. Tuareg men often find shame in showing their mouth or nose to strangers or people of a higher standing than themselves, and have been known to hide their features using their hands if a tagelmust is unavailable. The tagelmust has other cultural significance, as the manner in which it is wrapped and folded is often used to show clan and regional origin, and the darkness to which it is dyed showing the wealth of the wearer.