Berber Groups of Morocco

Most Moroccans, whether they are still in the country or are living abroad, share the same culture, languages and ancestral history. There are two main languages, namely Berber and Arabic, as there are two significant ethnic communities within Morocco, the Arabs and the Berbers. Berbers made up the original community of Morocco, with the Arabs arriving in Morocco during the eighth century. Many Arabs married Berbers, so it could be said that most Moroccans are of Berber descent. It is difficult to distinguish between the two today, because of centuries of co-existence and the amalgamation of many communities.

Berbers originated from the regions that lie on the Nile Valley’s west side, in North Africa. Though many of the ancient traditions and cultures still remain today, the Berbers did not walk away unscathed from the influence of invaders. The slaves that were brought over from Europe also left an imprint in their culture. Even though there have been many changes and influences in regard to religion and culture, three very distinct Berber groups have remained, namely the Riffian, Chleuh and Zayanes people. This means that there are three dialects of Berber spoken in Morocco, and while French is an unofficial language of the country, Berbers continue to fight to have their language recognized as an official language.

In northern Morocco, in the Rif area, live the Riffian Berbers. It believed that these Berbers have a closer relation to Europeans than their African descendant, as some Riffian Berbers have green or blue eyes and blonde hair. The Riff Berber language is spoken by approximately four million people, and the majority of them are in Morocco.

The Chleuh, or Shilha people, can be found in the Souss Valley, and regions of the Atlas Mountains. It is believed that approximately ten million Chleuh are in the country. They are known for the performing of traditional Berber dances and music.

Located in the Middle Atlas Mountains is a region known as Khenifra, which is home to the Zayanes Berbers. They are famous for their bravery and courage as warriors, and for their dedication to their ancestry and their land. Their language is known as Tazayant, and they have their own unique dishes, cultures and rites that keep their heritage alive. Berbers are a significant part of the history of Morocco and its colorful cultural diversity.