Courtship Rituals and Beauty Contests in the Sahel

At the end of September, just after the rainy season and before spreading out in small family bands into all four corners of the Sahel, clans of the nomadic Wodaabe tribe gather collectively to celebrate their traditional Gerewol Festival. It is a time to socialize, hold tribal meetings, baptize babies, barter over dowries, or help each other out if needed. But above all, it is an opportunity for the young to meet, date, mate, and marry.

There is one major twist, though: the Gerewol contestants are, unlike in most other beauty pageants, young and handsome males, and their judges are young marriageable females — often still in their teens — who evaluate the men carefully on their charms, dancing skills, stamina, and appearance, before slowly zooming in on their most attractive pick. 

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