Who are the Berber of Morocco? You’re on your way to Morocco, an African country. You’ve heard about seeing Berber settlements from your Moroccan travel company. You’ve heard all there is to know about Berber artisans, their understanding of the land, part of their unbreakable history, and perhaps a little more. Maybe you’ve never heard of them before. Who are these Berbers, exactly? In summary, the Berbers are a pre-Arab civilization that has controlled Morocco for thousands of years, unaffected and unconquered. Let’s have a look at these incredible individuals!
Morocco Berber History
Berber Morocco’s history dates back to prehistoric times, believe it or not. Morocco is home to the world’s oldest Homo Sapiens – approximately 300,000 years old! This indicates that Morocco’s indigenous people have lived here for a very long period. They have lived longer than any other known group of humans on the planet. Archeological records provide most of what we know about Morocco’s early inhabitants. Much of the history of the Berbers is passed down orally. In fact, calling them “Berber” is possibly a mistake!
The Amazigh, or “free people,” are the Berbers’ proud moniker. The term “Berber” comes from the Greek word “barbary,” which means “barbarian.” Though the term “Berber” is often used in Morocco, both by Amazigh and non-Amazigh Moroccans, it is probably not the most flattering or accurate.
The Amazigh governed all of North Africa thousands of years ago, mostly via many tribes. For commerce and travel, they would traverse through the Sahara and throughout the Mediterranean’s southern basin. They’ve been referred to by a variety of names throughout history: The ancient Greeks referred to them as “Libyans,” the Romans referred to them as “Nubians,” and “Africans,” and most of medieval Europe referred to them as “Moors.” In reality, the Arabs were the ones who coined the Berber Morocco appellation Al-Barbar.
This was most likely a modernized version of the ancient Greek word “barber.” However, according to Arab historian Ibn Khaldun, there might have been an old individual called “Barbar,” or a mother named “Barbara,” who gave the name to the tribes, perhaps in Somalia.
Moulay Idriss, the father of modern Morocco, took Islam with him as he escaped the Abbasid Dynasty, quietly converting the Awraba tribe and founding the Idrissid Dynasty. Prior to it, the majority of Berbers in North Africa were Animists, Christians, or Jews. Islam expanded fast across the area, however it differed from what was practiced in the Middle East. The Almoravids and Almohads, two of Morocco’s most famous historical dynasties, were Islamic Berber Morocco dynasties that governed significant swaths of Spain and northwest Africa.
The Amazigh have fought, traded, bargained, and hosted the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, and French throughout the centuries. Despite the fact that the Romans and others attempted to colonize the Berbers, they were able to keep their own language and culture and were never subjugated!
Although Berbers have had their own writing system for at least 2,500 years, their language is predominantly oral. The oldest texts may be found categorized in local museums around the south, however, they are often difficult to discover. The language has just been legally defined and is now one of Morocco’s two official languages, alongside traditional Arabic.
A Berber Amazigh community between Asni and Imlil in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains.
Berbers in Morocco Today
Today, the majority of Morocco’s 36 million people are likely a mix of Berber and Arab. “Berber Pride” stickers, graffiti, tee-shirts, and caps may be seen almost everywhere. There has been a comeback in recent years, with many Moroccans expressing great pleasure in their ethnicity and ancestry. In fact, in 2014, the state abolished a restriction on Amazigh names, demonstrating its support for such pride.
In the recent past, the nation was supposed to be approximately split, with Berbers predominantly residing in Morocco’s High Atlas, Middle Atlas, and Rif mountain ranges, while Arabs controlled the towns and lowlands, however, this separation is no longer visible. Still, Moroccans in the highlands are more likely to identify as “Amazigh,” while identities in the city are more flexible.
In certain areas, the Occident has incorrectly depicted Berbers as predominantly nomadic people who travel across the Sahara desert on camels. Though this was true of just a small number of tribes, it was a common misconception across the Berber continent. It should be noted that the Amazigh have a long history of influencing trade through building trading routes between West and Sub-Saharan Africa. They brought commodities from across the Sahara desert to northern Moroccan towns like Fez and Marrakesh. The desert treks were completed by nerve, knowledge, and, of course, a dromedary. In Morocco, however, the majority of Berbers were farmers who lived in the highlands and valleys. Others were shopkeepers and merchants. Merchants were formerly seen to be of greater status than farmers, but the positions have mostly reversed through time.
To go to the market, two guys ride their horses or mules down the High Atlas Mountains.
A Little More about Morocco’s Berbers
Different Berber tribes live in different parts of Morocco. The Draa Valley is home to the Drawa Berbers. The Dades inhabit the north, while the Mesgita, Seddrat, and Zeri tribes live near the northwestern rivers. The Ghomara live in Morocco’s Rif area.
Book a Morocco trip with a local tour operator to learn more about the Berbers of Morocco, and be sure to spend some time hiking in the Atlas Mountains. Visit the Draa Valley’s palm oasis or camelback across the Sahara, to name a few examples. Along the route, you’ll stop in at a number of settlements. Berbers are very polite people who will offer to share a drink of renowned Moroccan mint tea with you or prepare a traditional Moroccan cuisine for your supper.
Your Moroccan tour guide will assist you in selecting the most appropriate path for you. Many examples of Berber artistry may be seen in the marketplaces of Marrakesh and Fez. Stunning silver jewelry by Tuareg and Amazigh artisans, as well as handcrafted babouches and Belga, manufactured in the workshops, are among the treasures available. You will also discover magnificent embroidered caftans and textiles such as Berber carpets, cushions, kilims, and other such items. It should be noted, however, that while shopping in Morocco, buying fair trade is healthier for the people and the economy.
Speak with your Moroccan tour guide and operator to plan the holiday of a lifetime! A Moroccan trip will take you from sophisticated coastal towns to Amazigh communities in the High Atlas, Middle Atlas, or Rif Mountains, where you may even go trekking in Chefchaouen!
You may go hiking or come during one of the numerous festivals to discover how ancient Amazigh practices are being carried out today. Stay in a contemporary riad or a historic kasbah. It doesn’t matter where you travel in this wonderful place; you’ll have a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You may tailor your trip to your own interests and requirements. Today is the best time to book your Morocco trip and start your experience.