If you are interested in visiting our luxury desert camp in Morocco, you will find that you are being looked after by our wonderful Berber team. But who are the Berber people? Here are 10 interesting facts:
Berbers are the indigenous people of North Africa, an area of habitation that stretches all the way from Egypt in the East to the countries of the Sahel in the West. The Tuareg people who inhabit the vast swathes of the Sahara are also Berbers. The Tuareg are Berber people with a traditionally nomadic pastoral lifestyle. A 1984 census indicated there were as little as 4500 Tuareg Berbers living in Morocco.
Did you know that the term Berber was first used centuries ago by foreigners and is a variation of the Greek word barbaros (barbarian)? Interestingly, the term was used to describe anyone who didn’t speak Greek! It was never intended to offend - unlike the modern day term that is used to describe an uncivilised group of people.
Nowadays Berbers proudly call themselves amazigh (m), tamazight (f) or imazighen (plural), meaning ‘free men’ or ‘noble people.’
Berbers in Morocco speak several different dialects, not one single language. In fact, some dialects are so different that they are almost considered different languages! The main three languages used in Morocco are Tarifiyt in the north, Tashelhiyt in the south west and Tamazight in the centre. For many – up to 40% in some regions - the local Berber dialect is their only language.
The root of the Tamazight language has an amazing 38 consonants and just 3 vowels!
In the years following the spread of Christianity across North Africa, many Berbers lived as Christians and Jews. The Islamic conquest of the 7th century brought with it forced conversions to Islam, against which the Berbers fought strongly but to which they finally submitted.
Did you know that of all the major cities in North Africa, Marrakech is the one with the largest Berber population and is considered more Berber than Arab? The Moroccan population is approximately 40% Berber.
Did you know that Berber languages are related to Germanic languages? This is largely to do with the fact that the Vandals, a Germanic tribe, ruled North Africa for the best part of one hundred years!
In traditional Berber life, men look after the livestock whilst the women look after the family and make handicrafts such as pottery, rugs and jewellery for sale at the local souq. Whilst this practice is still common, especially in rural Morocco, modernity has drawn many Berbers to work in the cities, often in the tourist trade due to their hospitable nature and broad knowledge of their country.
- The following are all famous Berbers you may have heard of:
- Ramesses II, the third Pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt (1279-1213 BC).
- Saint Augustine, a 4th century Christian theologian and philosopher from Algeria.
- Ibn Battuta, a 14th century Moroccan traveller and explorer who travelled throughout Africa, the Near and Far East.
- Zinedine Zidane, a former French footballer who now coaches Real Madrid.
- Saoud Massi, an Algerian acoustic singer-songwriter whose soulful tunes you will often hear playing in the medinas of Essaouira and Marrakech.
- Tinariwen, the much-loved and highly-acclaimed Tuareg musicians from the Saharan region of Mali.
Tuareg musicians, Tinariwen