The different kinds of people in Morocco
People of Morocco are both words that gather a huge amount of different entities and cultures. There is no doubt that Morocco is one of the richest countries in Africa and the world when it comes to people and their cultures. In general, we can talk about two different main parts of Moroccan people, Berbers, and Arabs. Furthermore, these two parts can be also divided into three parts, North, Central, and Southern people, each part has a bit different dialect in both languages, Berber and Arabic. Besides, they also have a difference in cultures and traditions.
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With the development of Genetics science in the last decades, no one could deny that the original citizens of Morocco and North Africa are Berbers. Imazighen is the name that they gave to themselves referring to the free noble people. Scientists say that they were around about 10,000 BC ago. Their homeland spreads from the Siwa in Egypt to the Canarian Island in the west. As mentioned, this kind of Moroccan people can be divided into three main parts.
Firstly, there are the north Berbers, Riffians, or Rwafa. Most of them take Al Hociema and Nador as their capital and it is where the majority live. Concerning the language, they speak a different dialect of Berber(Tamazight) and they call it Tarifit. Not to mention that, as they are living next to Spain, most of them speak Spanish. Even more, they mix it with Tarifit.
Secondly, there are the Central Imazighen or Assammer Berbers. This kind is characterized by consisting of many different tribes and most of them start with the word “Ait“. For example, there are the Ait Atta, Ait Bourk, Ait Chghrouchen, Ait khbbach, and many more. Though this kind lives in the same place and is not separated by long distances, there is a bit difference in the dialects that they speak. It is to say that, they use some different words that the other tribes understand.
Finally, there is this kind that the Moroccans consider an important basis of the national economy. The Chleuh or Ishlhien is one of the main parts of Moroccan people. They also have a different dialect which is Tassoussiet. Furthermore, most of them live in Agadir and the surrounding areas.
Arab people in Morocco are one of the main parts. They came after the death of Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, in order to spread the Islamic religion. At that time, Berbers in Morocco have converted to Christianity and were living hand in hand with the Jews. After many battles, most of Imazighen converted to Islam and made Arabic their language. Nowadays the majority speak Moroccan Arabic that is Darija. It consists of many Berber words besides Latin languages. Many Berbers Have been Arabized by the time, especially those who live in big cities.
Moroccan Arabic also differs from the three parts, North, center, and West. Firstly, those who live in the north have a special dialect which is Darija Chamalia. Secondly, in the center, they use another kind of Darija that is more simple and it has no name. Heading to the west of Morocco, people there use another dialect that is called Lhssania. In this article, you will dive into the history and the beginning of the citizens of Morocco and their origins.
A Glimpse to the History of People in Morocco
Many Moroccan historians like to report, with some delight, this anecdote that took place in the court of an Abbasid caliph in Baghdad. A courtier, believing to be flattering the Caliph, explains to the latter that the world looks like an immense bird. Its head is in the East, the two wings spread out in Yemen and Syria, the heart is in Iraq, while the tail is in its west, the Maghreb.
A Moroccan present at the Caliph’s court then intervenes to confirm the words of the courtier by saying: “Yes, the world does indeed look like a peacock”. An allusion to the tickling and beautiful fan of feathers that form the tail of the peacock. The Caliph smiled at his Moroccan host’s remark and rewarded him for his wit and national pride. As this anecdote indicates. Moroccans have always had the conviction embedded in their bodies that they belong to a distinct geographical entity, specific culture, and history. Their country is not exclusively Berber, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, or African. But it is all of these things. Definitely, a mixture of synthesis.
Moroccan people and their mythical country
Its first name was Al-Maghrib Al Aqsa, the Far West. It reflects this singularity and specificity, even in the eyes of outsiders who perceived it as a distant, eccentric land that fascinates and intrigues. Various myths and legends express the curiosity that the “Far West” of the world aroused. It was there that Atlas, the giant of Greek mythology, gave name to the mountain range. Condemned by Zeus, for his insubordination, to carry on his powerful shoulders the celestial vault.
It was in Tangier that Hercules opened the Strait of Gibraltar by splitting two mountains with a vigorous sword. Thus definitively separating Europe from Africa. And it was in this region that the Atlanteans settled and found a powerful empire. According to legend, it stretches from Senegal to the British islands. Ancient history shows how Morocco was made and formed of mixtures between successive waves of races. Not to mention cultures, religions, and influences from all walks of life, of which Islam and Arabity are only one component, essential and important.
Original People of Morocco
It is generally accepted that the first inhabitants of Morocco were the Berbers. A group of populations that appeared in North Africa more than 9000 years ago following waves of immigration from the Near East. The displacement of groups from the East and their settlement in Morocco is a characteristic feature of the country’s history over the centuries. Another prehistoric migratory current came from the Mediterranean to aggregate and merge with the populations coming from the East. Clearly, giving the people of Morocco and the Maghreb physical and cultural originality.
What Ibn Khaldun says about the people of Morocco
In his monumental History of the Berbers, Ibn Khaldun attributes the origin of the word “Berber” to the difficulty of the dialects that the people of Morocco and the Maghreb speak. The various invaders were unable to decipher and understand. The great historian then explains that the word “barbara” in Arabic means incomprehensible cries and the roar of the lion. In his explanation, Ibn Khaldun takes up an older origin of the Berber word, which derives from the Latin word Barbarus. Meaning foreign to the language and culture of the Greeks, and also designating the populations that lived outside the Roman Empire.
The question of the origin of the Berbers has always been a crucial and important issue. In other words, it went beyond the scope of scientific knowledge. Historical research has often been used to serve political ambitions and to forge an ideological vision of Morocco’s identity and history. Thus, many colonialist authors sought to prove the European origin of the Berbers. Even more, sometimes using scientific acrobatics and muddy arguments.
The presence of light-skin and light-eye groups of people in certain mountainous areas of Morocco has been presented as confirmation that the Berbers are descendants of Celtic tribes from northern Europe. This interpretation was intended to legitimize the French colonization by finding a common ethnic origin with the indigenous population and sowing division between Arabs and Berbers. Modern anthropological and archaeological research has completely dismantled the hypothesis of the European origin of the Berbers, which was very much in vogue during the colonial period.
Welcome to the Moors
In ancient times, the Berber population of North Africa was taking the name “the Libyans”. This name was covered, among Greek and Roman historians. A vast geographical entity that extended over what today corresponds to the “Grand Maghreb”. Known for their military and warlike qualities. The Libyans, or “the Lebou”, were even able to rise to power in Egypt, with King Chéchonq I, to found a new dynasty of pharaohs in 950 BC. This date is the beginning of the Berber calendar.
But another name, more precisely, appeared among Greek and Roman authors to designate the population in western North Africa is the Moors. Not really known for lack of traces and written documents about this swarm of Berber tribes who lived on a territory largely corresponding to present-day Morocco. Of Phoenician origin, the word Moors means “Westerners” and was used to distinguish geographically this territory from other regions of North Africa.
Located between the Atlantic Ocean and Wadi Moulouya, the Moorish population was mainly of farmers, pastoralists, and nomads. Contact with the Phoenicians, who set up trading posts and stopovers in different parts of Morocco. This enabled the Moorish tribes to develop political and administrative structures that were transformed from the 4th century BC into a kingdom.
Moorish princes and high officials used Phoenician as an administrative and diplomatic language. While the different Berber dialects were the language of exchange between the populations. The fall of Carthage, which led to the collapse of the Phoenician power and the emergence of the Roman Empire. This allowed the Moorish kingdom to emerge and come out of the shadows. The Moorish kings then entered into complex alliances with the Romans to expand their territory at the expense of other Berber kingdoms in North Africa, especially the Numidian neighbors.
Morocco’s people as kings
For three centuries, the Bocchus dynasty ruled the Moorish country, which resembled much more a confederation of tribes with one chief than a centralized monarchy. The foundation of the Moorish kingdom and its exact extent remain little known due to the scarcity and near-existence of written records.
The few mentions found among Roman historians suggest that it was a kingdom that extended from northern Morocco to the Atlas Mountains. Besides, the Moulouya Wadi was a natural border separating it from Numidia, an eastern Berber kingdom.
For a long time, the Moorish kingdom was a friend and supporter of the Romans in their various struggles in North Africa. Thus, at the end of the 3rd century BC, king Baga provided Scipio the African, the famous Roman general, with contingents of fighters to fight a final battle against the mighty Carthage. The victory of the Romans over Carthage and the destruction of the latter drew a new face of the Mediterranean and North Africa. An empire was born from this victory.
The alliance of the Moors with the Roman Empire allowed the Bocchus dynasty to expand its kingdom. Also, to nibble on the territory of its neighbors and to gain power and influence. The outbreak of a conflict between Rome and the Berber kingdom of Numidia was an opportunity seized by the Bocchus to dramatically expand the Moorish domain.
Rise of the Numidian king Jugartha and end of the Moors
Around 109 BC, Jugurtha, the young Numidian king, refused the plan proposed by Rome to divide his kingdom between different heirs. Thus, triggering a long war with the Romans. After that, Jugurtha then turned to his neighbor and father-in-law (Bocchus I) to help and support him in his fight. However, the Moorish king, fearing a devastating reaction from Rome and thinking first of his own political interests. He handed over his son-in-law Jugurtha to his enemies. Bocchus received from the Romans the entire western part of the Numidian kingdom, which extended over much of present-day Algeria. The new subjects of the Moorish kings gradually lost their old name and the name of their fallen kingdom, Numidia, would disappear to become the country of the Moors.
But the Romans’ hold will continue to grow and their control over North Africa will reach considerable proportions. The fall of the Moorish kingdom in the year 40 with the assassination of Ptolemy, the last ruler of the Bocchus dynasty. This put an end to the Berber kingdoms and placed North Africa under the administration of the Romans.
Morocco people’s cultures
Ancient Morocco has suffered from little cultural and political influence from its invaders. An outlying country, bordered by seas and crossed by massive mountain ranges, of little economic interest to the great powers of that time. The Romans, Vandals, and Byzantines were able to successfully occupy Morocco and prevent the resurgence of Berber kingdoms. But without being able to deeply mark its ethnic composition or bring about radical transformations in its identity and culture.
Only Islam and successive waves of Arab immigration succeeded in aggregating with the Berber component. Even laying the foundations of the Moroccan nation. Despite the presence of more than five centuries, the Romans left only a superficial mark on Morocco and its people. The impact of their colonization was very tenuous. The “Tingitane Mauritania” region was less Latinized and less impregnated by the culture of the empire than Algeria and Tunisia.
The Roman occupation remained in a narrow territory in certain cities such as Tingis (Tangier), Lixus (Larache), and Volubilis. There is little evidence of the large-scale monuments that the Romans left in other countries. Taking examples of aqueducts, bridges, or main roads. Two worlds coexisted in this context. Firstly, a Roman civilization cloistered in a few garrison towns reserved for the military and civil servants who came from the metropolis. Secondly, a population that kept its customs, traditions, and dialects intact.
The end of the Roman empire’s infleunce
The marks of the Roman presence were diminished with the shrinking of the empire and the arrival of new conquerors. Around 429, the Vandals, hordes of Germanic tribes invaded Morocco in search of fertile land and natural resources. Then, they headed eastwards to reach ancient Carthage, leaving behind them only desolation and ruins. In spite of the presence of more than a century in North Africa, the Vandals left little trace of their passage in Morocco.
The Byzantines heirs of the Roman Empire will try to restore the glory and prestige of their ancestors by going to reconquer the Maghreb. But they will have little success in Morocco. Their area of influence remained limited to Tangier and Sebta due to the strong resistance of Berber tribes. The field was then open to new conquerors. Those who were coming from the East. Most of them were conquering to convert other people in Morocco and North Africa to their religion.
People of Morocco and Islam
Part1 : With Oqba Ibn Nafiî
After the death of the Prophet Mohammed, the Muslims set out, all over the world. They went on rapid and dazzling conquests, with troops and weapons. In only a few months and with a small army of 4000 men. The Arab warriors were able to defeat the Byzantines in Egypt and annex the ancient land of the pharaohs to the young Muslim empire. However, things were different and complicated in the Maghreb where the fierce Berber resistance is still alive and powerful.
For the Muslim army, it took more than half a century of fighting, raids, and negotiations to definitively control North Africa. As much time as needed to conquer Syria, Egypt, Iran, and Spain together! Oqba Ibn Nafiî symbolizes the harshness of the task and the violence of the resistance put up by the Berbers.
Appointed by Caliph Yazid in 669, Oqba launched a vast general offensive in the Maghreb. After defeating the Byzantines and building Al Kairouan. In the Tunisian city, he pushed a long raid towards the western tip of the Maghreb and reached Tangier. Then, straddled to southern Morocco to reach the “countries of the Blacks”. According to the story reported by Muslim historians. Oqba advanced with his horse into the waves of the Atlantic Ocean “the sea of darkness” as the Arabs call it. Then, he took God as his witness that if he had the opportunity to extend his conquest beyond the ocean he would not hesitate to do so. On the way to Al Kairouan. Oqba was killed near Biskra in Algeria in a fight against the Awraba tribe led by Kousseila, the Berber chief.
Part2 : with Moussa Ibn Noussaïr
After Oqba’s death, new Muslim military campaigns were carried out in the Maghreb. Only a few of them reached Morocco. The alliance of the Byzantines and the Berber tribes gave tablature to the troops and delayed Muslim domination over North Africa. A woman from the Berber tribes of the Aurès in Algeria and forced the Muslim troops to retreat. Dihiya or Damiya, according to the sources. Arab historians call her Kahina fought until her death. The advance of the Muslim troops. But a new and last offensive was the work of Moussa Ibn Noussaïr in 704. Impetuous, a fine negotiator, and a determined military leader. Moussa Ibn Noussaïr succeeded in conquering the whole of Morocco and convinced the Berbers to convert to Islam.
The new religion adopted by the Berbers then offered them a solid link that made it possible to transcend local and tribal divisions. Even more, to cement the different components of the population living in Morocco. Many Berber Moroccan people joined the Muslim army and participated actively and ardently in the conquests carried out under Islam. Moussa Ibn Noussaïr, sent One of them, Tariq Ibn Ziad, to launch the troops for the conquest of Spain.
FAQ about Moroccan people:
Morocco is a country of diversity, home to different kinds of people. Berbers and Arabs are both the main citizens of this country. Yet, as it is known the original people are Berbers and most of them went through Arabization and became Arabs.
With the development of the science of genes, no one could deny that the indigenous people of this country are Berbers.
A person from Morocco is called a Moroccan.
Moroccans are known for their warm hospitality and generosity. If you visit the country, expect to be well hosted especially by those who live in villages.