Moroccan Tribes

Morocco is a country filled with many traditions and a long history. Before becoming a rural community, the different Moroccan tribes were the center of the political, social and economic life of Morocco.

But what is a ‘’tribe’’ exactly? It is a group of several families that live under the authority of a chief and share the same language, culture and history. The Moroccan tribes can be divided into two categories: the tribes of Arab origin and the tribes of Berber origin.

The tribes of Arab origin are various and all speak one common language: Arabic. But among the Moroccan tribes, the two arabic-speaking tribes that are well-known are the Jebala, in the north-west, and Sahrawiya, in the southeast of Morocco. The Jebala is a group of mountain people inhabiting the plains from the city of Targuist to the west. The word ‘’Jbala’’ in arabic means ‘’mountain’’ and the Arabic dialect the Jebala people speak was greatly influenced by the spanish language because of the proximity between the two countries. The other important Arabic tribe is the Sahrawi people living in the western part of the Sahara desert. The language the tribe speaks is Hassaniya Arabic. Apart from these two Moroccan Arabic tribes, many more exist, and have their own dialect and ways of living.

Among all Moroccan tribes, the Berber tribes are ones of the most ancients. Berbers are the original inhabitants of Morocco. According to historians, they originally came to the country in the second or third millenium BC. The term ‘’Berber’’ comes from the Roman word ‘’Barbarian’’, but Berbers call themselves ‘’Amazigh’’ which signifies ‘’free people’’. They have their own language, culture and preserve their traditions in a modernized world. Nowadays, Berbers represent 40% of the Moroccan population. Although they share a common identity, Berbers are separated in three tribes with distinct languages and live in different regions of Morocco.

The smallest Berber population is situated in the north of Morocco, in the Rif Mountains. Since prehistoric times, the Rif has been inhabited by Berbers. Berbers living there are called the Riffan Berbers. The dialect they speak is called ‘’Tarafit’’. The Riffan Berbers are also divided into different tribes and tribal groups.

In a mountain range at the center of Morocco, in the Middle Atlas, live the Zayanes. This Berber tribe spread from Fes to Marrakesh. The dialect the inhabitants usually speak is ‘’Tamazight’’, but it varies from region to region. The tribe is well-known for its attachment to the ancestral homeland. Also, the Zayanes are very independent since the arrival of the tribe in the 5th century.

In the Anti Atlas Mountains and the southern Atlas are living the largest Berber tribe: the Shilha. Traditionally, the Shilha people are farmers, but can also be semi-nomadic, moving depending of the seasons. Their dialect, ‘’Tashlheit’’,  is viewed as the most ‘’pure’’. Many Berber movies and music are produced using this dialect. Also, the Shilha language is spoken by more than 5 million people in Morocco which makes it more common than the other Berber dialects.

In the Berber culture, jewelry was and always is an important way of showing your cultural and ethnic identity. Berber symbols such as the Hamsa or the Fibula are often crafted on the silver jewelry. Each piece has a specific signification and is unique in its own way.

Among the different Moroccan tribes that have existed and the ones that are still present, it’s the beauty and uniqueness of the Berber tribe that inspired Moroccan Birds in creating a line of Berber jewelry.