Berbers – The indigenous people of Morocco
Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco, who also call themselves Amazighs, which means “free men.” They are not ordinary people as their way of life is entirely different from that of others worldwide. They have a distinct form of life, which makes them stand out. The language they speak, how they dress up, the different types of festivals they celebrate, and even the kind of food they eat makes them eccentric.
If you are quite an interested person and want to find out more about these people, all you have to do is scroll down!
Table of Contents
Origin of Berbers
Berbers are usually inhabitants of Morocco; their population is around 40 million people in Africa. Initially, they were Christians, Jews, and Animists; they believed that plants and other living things also have souls just like human beings. However, due to the Arab conquest, the Berbers had become Islamized, and in part, also Arabized, although they were not forcibly converted.
The history of Berbers dates ages back but much cannot be said about their history and origin because, at that time, there was no formal language developed. Proof of their existence and way of life can be found and interpreted based on the drawings in caves in North Africa found in Tadrart Acacus, Libya, and Tassili n’Ajjer in southeastern Algeria.
Lifestyle of Berbers
Berbers are simple people who have a very straightforward way of life; they aren’t controlled by various commodities and luxuries the world offers. They have their lifestyle, which is quite different and distinct than the lifestyle of other people. They occupy an area in central Morocco; this area is known as High atlas or Grand Atlas because it is the highest point of the Atlas Mountains.
Berbers have their language, known as Tamazight, and it’s one of Morocco’s official languages. The language has its alphabet and writing system, and it’s widely spoken in Morocco.
Some Berbers still living in rural areas still have houses made of stones with no electricity. And the literacy rate there is significantly low because there aren’t many schools in the area they inhabit. However, even with these few resources, the Berbers aren’t dependent on anyone. They are healthy, self-sufficient people who have ample knowledge of the natural world surrounding them; they can easily take care of themselves and feed themselves by grazing goats.
The Berbers are a close-knit community, even with the unorthodox and dangerous living conditions. They have managed to survive and satisfy themselves only because they look after every person in their community and consider them their own.
Religion of Berbers
Berbers belong to different religious backgrounds; many of them were Jews and Christian who lived in Morocco during the 1960s. After that, most of them left the country and migrated to other areas. Now the Berbers that live in Morocco are mostly Sunni Muslims. They have the same beliefs and practices as Sunni Muslims around the world.
Tradition of Berbers
As Berbers are mostly Muslims living in Morocco, the public holidays and festivities are the same as the rest of the Islamic community; they celebrate Eid Al Adha, Eid Al Fitr, and fast in Ramadan. But along with this, they also have their tradition and customs that they follow.
The Berbers have their Amazigh calendar, and based on it, they have a different new year than the rest of the world, the term for their new year is Yennayer, and it’s on the 14th of January. Berbers celebrate their new year with a grand meal. They encourage couples to get married on this day because they consider it a good luck sign. They also encourage children to pick out vegetables and fruits, as a sign of them joining the agricultural life.
Another cultural festival celebrated by the Berbers is Boujloud. It is observed after Eid Al Adha and has a duration of 3 days. People believe that the purpose of this celebration is to show the fight between good and evil. Men dress up in goatskins, have hooves attached to their hands, and try to dress up as goats, they may look very weird, but they believe the odder they look, the better it is. During this holiday, females and children’s role is to sing and dance and enjoy with their families.
Music and Cuisine
Music is an essential part of the Berbers culture; celebrations are incomplete without enjoying it and dancing. They play the music with flutes and drums, and the village people dance to it; however, in some parts, it is considered inappropriate for females to dance, so only men perform and sway with the music played. Berbers also believe music acts as a remedy and helps get rid of evil spirits.
As Berbers have been invaded several times, their traditional cuisine has been influenced and changed with time. Hence, people who belong to different tribes have different eating habits. There are different types of cuisine they enjoy and make various food. However, couscous is seen as one of the traditional dishes of Berbers as they have enjoyed and made this decision throughout history.
Festivals of Berbers
1. The Fantasia Festival
This festival is also famously known as the Game of Gunpowder. During this festival, the men showcase their horsemanship skills. They wear the traditional Berber attire, and then from a starting point together, they have to march for about 200 meters, and after that, they have to fire their guns. Men have to keep their horses in one straight line, and they have to fire their weapon at the same time so that only a single and massive sound is created and heard.
The festival gets its name from the horses called “the fantastic horses,” it’s a celebration to show the bond between the man and his horse. People who belong to diverse Berber tribes have different eating habits. There are different types of cuisine they enjoy and make a variety of food.
2. The Imilchil Festival
This festival is celebrated in the memory of two lovers. Back in the day, a young boy and girl fell in love, but due to their tribes’ restrictions, they weren’t allowed to marry each other, which filled both of them with tears, and they died crying. Their tears created two lakes, named Isli and Tilsit.
After their death, people decided to set a day of the year in which men and women who belong to different tribes can marry each other as an honor to them. Both men and women get dressed and look their finest. Then men are lined up for women to choose which man they want to be with, the walk towards the man they like, and indulge in conversation with them, and if they reach a mutual decision of marrying each other, the women introduce the man to her family.
Final thoughts on Berbers
The Berbers have faced a lot of difficulties, even though they were the original inhabitants of Morocco. They were never given the authority and honor they deserve. Throughout history, they have been subject to brutality and discrimination, there has always been someone controlling them and ruling them, but they have managed to stay put even with all this. They never gave up their values and traditions, and that is the reason why they still exist. Together they managed to face all the difficulties and have their own unique identity, making them unique.