The Amazigh People (“Berber”)

Most of the people don’t know much about the Amazigh people, haven’t even heard of them at all… that definitely changes once they traveled through Morocco.

Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lybia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Egypt is what Amazigh people, also known as “Berber”, call home. The word “Berber” comes from the Greek word “barbaros”, which means barbarian. Today no one will feel offended by that word anymore, yet for sure it will make them happy to be called Amazigh people or Imazighen, as they call themselves in their language (Tamazight). Some people might use the word “Berbers” as a synonym for nomads, which doesn’t fit for all of them. Only a few from different tribes are having this kind of nomadic lifestyle.

But Berbers aren’t just Berbers.. there are many different tribes with different dialects, different traditions and a different way of living. Only in Morocco you’ll find already three of them. The biggest tribe in Morocco, called Ishelhien is the one that lives in the area around the High-Atlas Mountains until the Western coast (around Agadir) of Morocco. The Berbers in the North of Morocco call themselves Riffians. The once that lives around Agadir and southern are called Swassa.

More than 60% of the Moroccan population still speaks the Amazigh language and therefore see themselves as Berbers. Actually mostly all inhabitants of the north African countries are originally Imazighen (Berbers). The ones that doesn’t identify as Berbers might call themselves Arabs which is genetically not true, but due to the Arabization and the Islam coming to the their countries they don’t feel as Imazighen anymore.

Last but not least, the word “Amazigh” basically means “free people”. Known for their heartwarming hospitality that describes them perfectly well. You won’t find an Amazigh that doesn’t invite you to a cup of sweet mint tea or to have dinner with the family. So whenever you get the opportunity to get closer to the Imazighen, take that chance and you won’t regret it.