Sunday, 15 November 2015

Tin Hinan, the Tuareg Queen

My historical romance THE LION'S EMBRACE, which was published by Áccent Press last August, is mostly set in North Africa in 1845. The heroine, Harriet Montague, hires scout Lucas Saintclair to rescue her father, an archaeologist who she believes has been taken hostage in the far South of Algeria. Harriet's father, Oscar Montague, was on the trail of the legendary Garamantes' emerald mines when he discovered the tomb of Tuareg queen Tin Hinan.

I absolutely loved researching the many legends and tales associated with this mysterious queen who is said to have founded the Tuaregs.

Tin Hinan, the queen the Tuaregs still call ‘Our Mother’, is rumoured to have come from the country which would now be Morocco with her maid servant Takamat. They settled at Abalessa, an oasis in Southern Algeria, and their daughters are rumoured to be the founders of all the Tuareg tribes. Her tomb was discovered by archaeologist and adventurer Byron Khun de Prorok (what a name!) in 1925.

In ‘The Lion’s Embrace’, I have used my 'artistic licence' in that Oscar Montague discovers the tomb in 1845 but it is then closed up and left untouched.

However, I kept all the details of the artefacts, of the gold, silver jewellery, precious and semi-precious stones which were found as accurate as possible and stuck very closely to the description of the remains of the Tuareg queen.

When her burial chamber was opened, archaeologists found the queen lying on a bed of hand-carved wood, facing toward the East. She was wrapped in a leather shroud, and wore fifteen solid silver and gold bracelets, a diadem made of emeralds, ostrich feathers and a long cornelian necklace.

In the days before carbon dating, it was the imprint of a coin with the effigy of Emperor Constantine on a sculptured bowl which enabled historians to date the tomb from the 4th century AD. The body of Queen Tin Hinan as well as all the artefacts found in her tomb are now in the Bardo Museum in Algiers.

From the top of the tomb, one can see the beautiful, mysterious Hoggar mountain range, particularly the great Koudia – which the Tuareg have named the ‘Roof of the Sahara’, and where according to local legends, the King of the Djins (the King of the Evil Spirits) lives. One can see the iconic Mount Illiman too.

Even before her tomb was discovered, the numerous legends surrounding Queen Tin Hinan inspired Pierre Benoit to write his classic novel ‘Atlantide’, published in 1919. His heroin, Antinea, and her followers are descendants of the people of ‘Atlantis’ who had taken refuge in the Hoggar after a great disaster destroyed their world. Antinea lives in a palace hidden in the mountains, where she seduced and entrapped lost explorers to the Sahara.

Recently there has been some controversy about the identify of the woman who was buried at Abalessa, with some historians now disputing that the remains belonged to Tin Hinan at all!

Whoever was buried there however was a woman of immense prestige and immense wealth.


  1. The research must have been fascinating.

  2. Yes, you are right, Patsy. Researching the novel was wonderful. I came across fascinating facts, beautiful landscapes and music. Thank you very much for your comment.