People of Morocco
People of Morocco Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010
The Berber were the original people of Morocco and the majority of modern day Moroccans (about40%) are pure Berber with another 35% of Berber extraction.
Arabs, who trace their presence in Morocco to the Muslim conquests in the 7th century AD, are the second largest grouping and coalesce in the country's urban areas. There is a small minority of black African descent and a European community, predominately French, of about 100,000.
The Berbers are an indigenous northwest African non-Arab tribal people who dominate large areas of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. They inhabited North Africa at least as early as 3000BC. They speak their own distinct language in approximately 300 dialects relating to specific localities. Their Berber linguistic tradition is oral rather than literary and there is very little written Berber in existence.
Over the centuries the Berbers have slowly become assimilated into the Arab mainstream culture although the majority still live in the country's rural areas raising livestock and growing crops. With education and modern transportation and communications, Berbers are now found in a wide variety of other traditional and contemporary occupations.
Most Berbers speak Moroccan Arabic and all are at least nominally Muslim although many Berbers retain traces of an atavistic animism in their practice of Islam. Certain Berber tribes, usually in remote areas, have at certain periods reverted to pre-Islamic pagan practices and have been reintegrated into the Muslim mainstream by religious missionaries.
The Arab conquest of the 7th century AD drove many Berber tribes south toward the interiors of the country, to the Atlas and the Moroccan Sahara. Eventually, however, the Berbers embraced Islam.
The Berbers gave their name to North Africa's Barbary Coast which became a notorious pirate stronghold and threat to Mediterranean sea lanes.