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Meet the berbers

Updated: Sep 11, 2019


International Day of the Worlds Indigenous People is a day to educate and celebrate. There is roughly 370 million indigenous people in the world. This makes up around 5% of the population, yet they account for 15% of the poorest. Indigenous people have unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment . So in light of this, I share with you 10 interesting facts about the indigenous people of Morocco.

Berber: "a member of the indigenous people of North Africa"


The largest population of Berber are seen in #Morocco and Algeria. Berbers originally inhabited Morocco over 5000 years ago and today 40% of the 32 million Moroccan population are Berber with 80% claiming Berber heritage. The city which sees the largest Berber population is #Marrakech, however there are three main tribes that can be found within different regions of the Atlas. In the north are the Riffan Berbers, the smallest of the Berber population. The Zayanes, found in the Middle Atlas which spread from Fes to Marrakech. Some Zayanes are still nomads and travel with the seasons. Thirdly, the Shillhah Berbers located in the south Atlas are considered the largest and purest of the Berber tribes.

The name Berber originates from the Greek word barbaros, meaning barbarian. This was previously used to describe anyone who did not speak Greek. It was only later that the Arabs coined the term Al-Barbar, which is the name of the race that descended from Noah. Today Berbers are known as #Amazigh (male), #Tamazight (female), #Imazighen (plural) which translate to mean ‘free men’ or ‘noble people’.

Berbers are of Islamic faith however this has only been true since the Islamic conquest of the 7th century. Prior to the invasion of the Arabs, Berbers traditionally lived as Christians or Jews.

Every year Berbers get together – The Imilchil Marriage Festival. It is held high in the Atlas mountains to celebrate an ancient story of two lovers who were unable to marry because of their feuding families. After they found out the news, they drowned themselves in nearby lakes. This festival brings together local tribes to allow men and women to meet and maybe even marry.

Berbers have adopted their own flag as pictured. The blue represents the sea, the green represents nature and the yellow represents the desert. The centre symbol, known as ‘yaz’ and pronounced ‘z’ means freedom.

Sadly, only until around the middle of the 20th century, Berbers were considered second class citizens – much like the Aboriginals of Australia. However, today, they are seen as equal with Berber being recognised as one of Morocco’s offical languages.

In some regions of Morocco, the traditional #Berber dialect is still the only spoken language. It consists of 38 consonants and 3 vowels. It is linked to the Germanic language as the Vandals, a German tribe, once ruled North Africa for over 100 years.

Historically Berber merchants were responsible for transporting goods by camel caravans. Traditionally, Berbers raise sheep, cattle and goats with some working in flourmills, doing woodcarving and making jewellery. Women are highly skilled weavers and pottery makers. Today, there are a number of great charities that work with Berber communities to help keep Berber traditions alive. One of which is The Eve Branson Foundation and is definitely worth a visit if you are in Marrakech.

The Barbary coast, on the coast of northwest Africa was named after the Berbers because they and the Arabs pirated ships going to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Berber symbols are used to represent an external reality in a simplistic form. You can see these symbols in all forms of Berber artisan from pottery to textiles, jewellery and henna. Berber motifs are included in the design of everyday objects to protect the object as well as the person who uses or wears it.

Berber Symbols & Manira Palm

An image can often say more than a thousand words and many Berber symbols have deep meanings. Manira Palm’s logo is inspired by the Berber symbol for tree as shown below. The tree is related to an easy life, #happiness and fertility. The roots mean #life, the leaves mean #knowledge and the tree symbolises the centre of the world.

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