Berber Culture and History

Bandera Bereber

The Berbers are the indigenous people of North Africa who inhabited the coast from the land of Egypt to Morocco at least 5,000 years ago.

Since the Arab invasion of North Africa in the seventh century, the "Arabization" occurred in three phases. The first phase was the initial contact with the Arab invaders in the seventh century. The second phase began with the arrival of the Bedouins in the eleventh century. The third phase of Arabization that took place between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries was accelerated by the arrival of refugees from Andalusia. The Berbers were forced to take refuge in the heights of the Atlas Mountains. While about 80% of the Moroccan population is Berber origin, the reality is that less than half have adopted lifestyles in line with Berber practices.


Their main religion is Islam. Although some earlier traditions continue to Iceland, the Berbers believe in the continued presence of various spirits (djinn). Divination is accomplished through the Koran. Most men use protective amulets which contain verses from the Koran.

Over several millennia, the Berber language, Tamazight, has blurred into now almost thirty languages and hundreds of dialects (not counting dialects or languages of Guanches of the Canary Islands since they have long since disappeared). Although the Berber language is essentially an oral tradition, and has been for at least 2,500 years, they have their own writing system called "Libyan-Berber" (tifinagh in Berber). Today this alphabet is used by the Tuareg tribes.

In countries like Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Niger, and Mauritania Tamazigt is spoken but, except in Algeria, there have been bans imposed on the practice and baptizing their children with names of Berber origin.


Along the Atlas Mountains there are purely and exclusively Berber villages, although, the only city with an atmosphere that resembles a little of these traits is Marrakech which situated at the base of the southern tip of the Atlas Mountains.
In their own language, the Berbers call themselves Amazigh ("free man" and its plural imazighen).


Contrary to the popular romantic image that portrays the nomadic Berber people as people crossing the desert on camels, their work really fundamental is the practice of sedentary agriculture in the mountains and valleys. Their influence is some ancient trade in the region. It was they who opened the ancient trade routes between West Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. Berber merchants were responsible for bringing the North African cities products beyond the Sahara. From there they distributed them throughout the world.


Traditionally the people are divided between farmers and traders. The cultivation of the land was considered as the work of the lower classes, while the upper classes were merchants. Normally, the sedentary groups paid their taxes in exchange for being a local chief defended from the class of traders. However, over time, these groups of farmers acquired some wealth and accumulation declined as the economic importance of trade routes. Moreover, these groups were primed by the colonial and postcolonial authorities at the expense of traditional power traders


TRIBES OF MOROCCO

In Morocco, the Berbers inhabit the region Drawa, the river valley of Draa; the Dades live in the northeast and a little further north in the High Atlas, the Ait Hdidou; the Mesgita, Seddrat, and Zeri are along the tributaries of the Northwest; the Ghomara live in the Moroccan Rif. In the country's northeastern region, north of Fez, the Kabyle, meaning "tribes," originally referred to all Berbers today. However, this refers only to the Berbers who live in al-Quabail Mountains, the High Atlas Sousi in the west and the Anti Atlas.

 
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