Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name

Berbers of Morocco

Culture Description

The Berbers are the indigenous people of north Africa, who are widely dispersed from Morocco in the west to the Siwa oasis of Egypt in the east, and from the Algerian Jurjura in the north to parts of Mali and Niger in the south. In Morocco, they live in isolated compact villages scattered along the northern Rif, the Atlas chains, the Saghoro massif and part of the Pre-Saharan oasis regions. They speak various dialects of the Berber language which belongs to the African Branch of the Afro-Asiatic Family of languages. The Berbers of Morocco were mostly sedentary farmers, except for some primarily pastoral communities in parts of the Western Atlas. Since the 1970s, many Berber families have become urbanized, living in apartment-type dwellings and engaged in off-farm economic pursuits.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Africa --Northern Africa



OWC Code


Collection Information

Number of Documents


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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

In addition to this culture summary, the Berbers of Morocco (MX03) collection covers a wide variety of cultural, historical and ecological information, circa 1890-1992. Most of the materials in the collection focus on the Berbers in central Rif, Imazighen and Ishilhayen.

The basic sources to consult are the works of anthropologist David Hart, who lived among the Aith Wariyaghar in central Rif in 1953-1954, and Emilio Blanco Izaga, a Spanish official who administered Rif from 1914 to 1934 (Hart 1989, no. 3; Blanco Izaga 1975: no. 5). Together, these documents provide comprehensive overview of Rifian culture and society at time when the Berbers were affected by Franco-Spanish colonial conquest. Topics discussed include Rifian agriculture, property relations, political structure, warfare and inter-clan relations, religious life, and resistance and socioeconomic changes.

The oldest document in the collection was compiled by a European ethnologist who conducted fieldwork in different parts of Morocco in 1896-1926 (Westermark 1926: no. 2). Although Westermarck reportedly worked only through informants without actually living among the people he studied, the data in this book are proved to be “amazingly accurate” by David Hart (Hart 1989, no. 3). Topics covered include annual ceremonies, funeral custom, ethnozoology, ethnobotany, and religious life including beliefs related to luck, sorcery and sacred objects, places and persons. The collection also includes another equally old work, featuring rich information on subsistence, and material culture including basic tools and type of dwellings (Coon 1931: no. 1).

Finally, the information in the above classic and historical works is further enriched with the remaining documents, each focusing on specific themes. Three of these documents are published articles revisiting previous arguments relating to social organization and tribal/regional political structure in pre-colonial Rif (Hart 1989, no.10; Munson 1989, no. 11; Seddon 1979, no. 12). One document is a historical works reinterpreting the role played by Rifian women during the armed resistance against French and Spanish colonialism in 1920s (Pennell 1987, no. 5). One of the remaining two documents describe a religious pilgrimage made by the Rif to one holy place (Hart 1957, no. 4), while the other focuses on recent changes in agriculture and local livelihood strategies (Maurer 1992, no. 8).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Collection Indexing Notes

Aitharbi`in n-tqbitsh –tribal council– Use TRIBE AND NATION ( 619) with COUNCILS ( 623)

Baraka –lit., “blessing”, charisma and miracleworking abilities associated with (sing. ) descendants of the Prophet– Use SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778) with PROPHETS AND ASCETICS ( 792)

Dharfiqth –patrilineage in Rifian (alternatively called in Imazighen and ) in Ishilhayen)– Use LINEAGES ( 613)

Dshur –local communities in Moroccan Rif, often consisting of highly dispersed individual homesteads, one-floored, flat-roofed structures of mud and stone, with rooms formed around a central courtyard– Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621) with SETTLEMENT PATTERNS ( 361) and/or DWELLINGS ( 342)

Habus –land donated by individuals to a local mosque or pious foundation for religious or charitable purpose– Use REAL PROPERTY ( 423) with PHILANTHROPIC FOUNDATIONS ( 741) and/or SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES ( 778)

Haqq –lit., “truth, right”, prohibitively heavy fines of violators of truth– Use LEGAL NORMS ( 671) and/or SANCTIONS ( 681)

Isiddjifen –headman or representatives of each – Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622)

Igudlan –summer pastures with rigidly defined opening and closing dates– Use LAND USE ( 311) with REAL PROPERTY ( 423) and/or ANNUAL CYCLE ( 221)

Khamsa khmas –a group of five primary tribal sections– Use TRIBE AND NATION ( 619) with LINEAGES ( 613)

Liff –a complicated network of alliance systems– Use SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS ( 571) with INGROUP ANTAGONISMS ( 578)

L-mwada` –villages– Use SETTLEMENT PATTERNS ( 361) with COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621)

Nubth –nuclear family in Rif– Use NUCLEAR FAMILY ( 594)

Qsur –residential clusters of sedentary Black date-palm-cultivating Berbers– Use SETTLEMENT PATTERNS ( 361) with COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621) and/or ETHNIC STRATIFICATION ( 563)

Qudat –Muslim law courts– Use SPECIAL COURTS ( 698) with RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS ( 795)

Rba` Use TRIBE AND NATION ( 619) with LINEAGES ( 613)

Suq –market– Use RETAIL MARKETING ( 443)

Timizar –local communities in Central Atlas, often consisting of three or four fortlike structures called (Arabic; sing. ) or – Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621) with DWELLINGS ( 342)

Tashat –nuclear family (basic residential unit)– Use NUCLEAR FAMILY ( 594)

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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