Berber people

Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are discontinuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. They speak various Berber languages, which together form a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Between fourteen and twenty-five million Berber speakers live within this region, most densely in Algeria and Morocco and becoming generally scarcer eastward through the rest of the Maghreb and beyond.

Many Berbers call themselves some variant of the word Imazighen (singular Amazigh), meaning "free men". This is common in Morocco, but elsewhere within the Berber homeland a local, more particular term, such as Kabyle or Chaoui, is more often used instead. Historically Berbers have been variously known, for instance as Libyans by the ancient Greeks, as Numidians and Mauri by the Romans, and as Moors by medieval and early modern Europeans. The modern English term is borrowed from Arabic, but the deeper etymology of "Berber" is not certain. (See also: Berber (Etymology).)

The best known of them were the Roman author Apuleius, the Roman emperor Septimius Severus, and St. Augustine.

Berber people in Maghreb

During the pre-Roman era, several successive Independent States (Massaesyles, Massyles... etc) existed before the king Massinissa unified the people of Numidia.

According to historians of the Middle Ages, the Berbers are divided into two branches (Botr and Barnès), descended from their ancestor Mazigh, which are further divided into tribes, and again into sub-tribes. Each Maghreb region is made up of several tribes, such as Sanhadja, Houaras, Zenata, Masmouda, Kutama, Awarba, Berghwata ... etc. All these tribes have independence and territorial decisions.

Several Berber dynasties have emerged during the Middle Ages to the Maghreb, Sudan, in Andalusia, Italy, in Mali, Niger, Senegal, Egypt ... etc.. Ibn Khaldun has a table summarizing the Maghreb dynasties whose Berber Dynasties: Zirid, Banu Ifran, Maghrawa, Almoravid, Hammadid, Almohad, Merinid, Abdalwadid, Wattasid , Meknassa, ,,... Hafsides dynasties.


The Berbers have lived in North Africa between western Egypt and the Atlantic Ocean for as far back as records of the area go. The earliest inhabitants of the region are found on the rock art across the Sahara. References to them also occur often in ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman sources. Berber groups are first mentioned in writing by the ancient Egyptians during the Predynastic Period, and during the New Kingdom the Egyptians later fought against the Meshwesh and Libu tribes on their western borders. From about 945 BC the Egyptians were ruled by Meshwesh immigrants who founded the Twenty-second Dynasty under Shoshenq I, beginning a long period of Berber rule in Egypt. They long remained the main population of the Western Desert—the Byzantine chroniclers often complained of the Mazikes (Amazigh) raiding outlying monasteries there.

For many centuries the Berbers inhabited the coast of North Africa from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean. Over time, the coastal regions of North Africa saw a long parade of invaders and colonists including Phoenicians (who founded Carthage), Greeks (mainly in Cyrene, Libya), Romans, Vandals and Alans, Byzantines, Arabs, Ottomans, and the French and Spanish. Most if not all of these invaders have left some imprint upon the modern Berbers as have slaves brought from throughout Europe (some estimates place the number of Europeans brought to North Africa during the Ottoman period as high as 1.25 million) Interactions with neighboring Sudanic empires, sub-Saharan Africans, and nomads from East Africa also left impressions upon the Berber peoples.

In historical times, the Berbers expanded south into the Sahara (displacing earlier populations such as the Azer and Bafour), and have in turn been mainly culturally assimilated in much of North Africa by Arabs, particularly following the incursion of the Banu Hilal in the 11th century.

The areas of North Africa which retained the Berber language and traditions have, in general, been the highlands of Kabylie and Morocco, most of which in Roman and Ottoman times remained largely independent, and where the Phoenicians never penetrated far beyond the coast. But, these areas have been affected by some of the many invasions of North Africa, most recently including the French. The trans-Saharan slave trade was operated by the Berbers and Arabs.

Berbers and the Islamic conquest

Unlike the conquests of previous religions and cultures, the coming of Islam, which was spread by Arabs, was to have pervasive and long-lasting effects on the Maghreb. The new faith, in its various forms, would penetrate nearly all segments of society, bringing with it armies, learned men, and fervent mystics, and in large part replacing tribal practices and loyalties with new social norms and political idioms.

Nonetheless, the Islamization and Arabization of the region were complicated and lengthy processes. Whereas nomadic Berbers were quick to convert and assist the Arab conquerors, not until the twelfth century, under the Almohad Dynasty, did the Christian and Jewish communities become totally marginalized.

The first Arab military expeditions into the Maghrib, between 642 and 669, resulted in the spread of Islam. These early forays from a base in Egypt occurred under local initiative rather than under orders from the central caliphate. But, when the seat of the caliphate moved from Medina to Damascus, the Umayyads (a Muslim dynasty ruling from 661 to 750) recognized that the strategic necessity of dominating the Mediterranean dictated a concerted military effort on the North African front. In 670, therefore, an Arab army under Uqba ibn Nafi established the town of Qayrawan about 160 kilometers south of present-day Tunis and used it as a base for further operations.

Abu al Muhajir Dinar, Uqba's successor, pushed westward into Algeria and eventually worked out a modus vivendi with Kusaila, the ruler of an extensive confederation of Christian Berbers. Kusaila, who had been based in Tilimsan (Tlemcen), became a Muslim and moved his headquarters to Takirwan, near Al Qayrawan.

But this harmony was short-lived. Arab and Berber forces controlled the region in turn until 697. By 711, Umayyad forces helped by Berber converts to Islam had conquered all of North Africa. Governors appointed by the Umayyad caliphs ruled from Kairouan, capital the new wilaya (province) of Ifriqiya, which covered Tripolitania (the western part of present-day Libya), Tunisia, and eastern Algeria.

The spread of Islam among the Berbers did not guarantee their support for the Arab-dominated caliphate due to unislamic racist attitudes of the Arabs. The ruling Arabs alienated the Berbers by taxing them heavily; treating converts as second-class Muslims; and, at worst, by enslaving them. As a result, widespread opposition took the form of open revolt in 739-40 under the banner of Kharijite Islam. The Kharijites objected to Ali, the fourth caliph, making peace with the Umayyads in 657 and left Ali's camp (khariji means "those who leave"). The Kharijites had been fighting Umayyad rule in the East, and many Berbers were attracted by the sect's seemingly egalitarian precepts.

After the revolt, Kharijites established a number of theocratic tribal kingdoms, most of which had short and troubled histories. But others, like Sijilmasa and Tilimsan, which straddled the principal trade routes, proved more viable and prospered. In 750, the Abbasids, who succeeded the Umayyads as Muslim rulers, moved the caliphate to Baghdad and reestablished caliphal authority in Ifriqiya, appointing Ibrahim ibn al Aghlab as governor in Kairouan. Though nominally serving at the caliph's pleasure, Al Aghlab and his successors, the Aghlabids, ruled independently until 909, presiding over a court that became a center for learning and culture.

Just to the east of Aghlabid lands, Abd ar Rahman ibn Rustam ruled most of the central Maghrib from Tahert, southwest of Algiers. The rulers of the Rustamid imamate, which lasted from 761 to 909, each an Ibadi Kharijite imam, were elected by leading citizens. The imams gained a reputation for honesty, piety, and justice. The court at Tahert was noted for its support of scholarship in mathematics, astronomy, astrology, theology, & law. But the Rustamid imams failed, by choice or by neglect, to organize a reliable standing army. This important factor, accompanied by the dynasty's eventual collapse into decadence, opened the way for Tahert's demise under the assault of the Fatimids.

Berbers in Al-Andalus

The Muslims who entered Iberia in 711 were mainly Berbers, and were led by a Berber, Tariq ibn Ziyad, though under the suzerainty of the Arab Caliph of Damascus Abd al-Malik and his North African Viceroy, Musa ibn Nusayr. A second mixed army of Arabs and Berbers came in 712 under Ibn Nusayr himself. They supposedly helped the Umayyad caliph Abd ar-Rahman I in Al-Andalus, because his mother was a Berber. During the Taifa era, the petty kings came from a variety of ethnic groups; some-- for instance the Zirid kings of Granada--were of Berber origin. The Taifa period ended when a Berber dynasty--the Almoravids from modern-day Western Sahara and Mauritania--took over Al-Andalus; they were succeeded by the Almohad dynasty from Morocco, during which time al-Andalus flourished.

In the power hierarchy, Berbers were situated between the Arabic aristocracy and the Muladi populace. Ethnic rivalry was one of the most important factors driving Andalusi politics.

After the fall of the Caliphate, the taifa kingdoms of Toledo, Badajoz, Málaga and Granada had Berber rulers.

Arabization of Northwest Africa

Before the 9th century, most of Northwest Africa was a Berber-speaking Muslim area. The process of Arabization only became a major factor with the arrival of the Banu Hilal, a tribe sent by the Fatimids of Egypt to punish the Berber Zirid dynasty for having abandoned Shiism. The Banu Hilal reduced the Zirids to a few coastal towns, and took over much of the plains; their influx was a major factor in the Arabization of the region, and in the spread of nomadism in areas where agriculture had previously been dominant.

Soon after the independence in the middle of the 20th century, the countries of North Africa established Arabic as their official language, replacing French (except in Libya), although the shift from French to Arabic for official purposes continues even to this day. As a result, most Berbers had to study and know Arabic, and had no opportunities until the 21st century to use their mother tongue at school or university. This may have accelerated the existing process of Arabization of Berbers, especially in already bilingual areas, such as among the Chaouis.

Berberism had its roots before the independence of these countries, but was limited to some Berber elite. It only began to gain success when North African states replaced the colonial language with Arabic and identified exclusively as Arab nations, downplaying or ignoring the existence and the cultural specificity of Berbers. However, its distribution remains highly uneven. In response to its demands, Morocco and Algeria have both modified their policies, with Algeria redefining itself constitutionally as an "Arab, Berber, Muslim nation".

Now, Berber is a "national" language in Algeria and is taught in some Berber speaking areas as a non-compulsory language. In Morocco, Berber has no official status, but is now taught as a compulsory language regardless of the area or the ethnicity.

Berbers are not discriminated against based on their ethnicity or mother tongue. As long as they share the reigning ideology, they can reach high positions in the social hierarchy; good examples are the former president of Algeria, Liamine Zeroual, and the current prime minister of Morocco, Driss Jettou. In Algeria, furthermore, Chaoui Berbers are over-represented in the Army for historical reasons.

Berberists who openly show their political orientations rarely reach high hierarchical positions. But, Khalida Toumi, a feminist and Berberist militant, has been nominated as head of the Ministry of Communication in Algeria.

Modern-day Berbers

The Berbers live mainly in Morocco (between 42% of the population) and in Algeria (about 27% of the population), as well as Libya and Tunisia, though exact statistics are unavailable ; see Berber languages. Most North Africans who consider themselves Arab also have mainly Berber ancestry Prominent Berber groups include the Kabyles of northern Algeria, who number about 4 million and have kept, to a large degree, their original language and culture; and the Chleuh (francophone plural of Arabic "Shalh" and Tashelhiyt "ašəlḥi") of south Morocco, numbering about 8 million. Other groups include the Riffians of north Morocco, the Chaouia of Algeria, and the Tuareg of the Sahara. There are about 2.2 million Berber immigrants in Europe, especially the Riffians and the Kabyles in the Netherlands and France. Some proportion of the inhabitants of the Canary Islands are descended from the aboriginal Guanches--usually considered to have been Berber--among whom a few Canary Islander customs, such as the eating of gofio, originated.

Though stereotyped in the West as nomads, most Berbers were in fact traditionally farmers, living in mountains relatively close to the Mediterranean coast, or oasis dwellers; but the Tuareg and Zenaga of the southern Sahara, were nomadic. Some groups, such as the Chaouis, practiced transhumance.

Political tensions have arisen between some Berber groups (especially the Kabyle) and North African governments over the past few decades, partly over linguistic and cultural issues; for instance, in Morocco, giving children Berber names was banned.


Various disciplines shed light on the origin of the Berbers.

Physical Anthropology

During the 20th century, the Berbers were classified by renowned anthropologists like Carleton S. Coon, Hans F. K. Günther or Earnest Hooton as belonging mainly to the mediterranean "race" with few of them belonging to the nordic "race".


The Neolithic Capsian culture appeared in North Africa around 9,500 BC and lasted until possibly 2700 BC. Linguists and population geneticists alike have identified this culture as a probable period for the spread of an Afro-Asiatic language (ancestral to the modern Berber languages) to the area. But the origins of the Capsian culture are archeologically unclear. Some have regarded this culture's population as simply a continuation of the earlier Mesolithic Ibero-Maurusian culture, which appeared around ~22,000 BC, while others argue for a population change; the former view seems to be supported by dental evidence.

Genetic evidence

In general, genetic evidence appears to indicate that most North Africans (whether they consider themselves Berber or Arab) are predominantly of Berber origin and that populations ancestral to the Berbers have been in the area since the Upper Paleolithic era. Berbers appear to be largely descended from a group or groups of people who expanded west from an eastern origin, along the southern rim of the Mediterranean sea, beginning perhaps as much as 50,000 years ago. Significant proportions of both the Berber and Arabized Berber gene pools also derive from more recent migration of various groups who have left their genetic footprints to varying degrees throughout the region.

Y-chromosome DNA

Y chromosomes are passed exclusively through the paternal line. Bosch et al. (2001), found little genetic distinction between Arabic-speaking and Berber-speaking populations in North Africa, which they take to support the interpretation of the Arabization and Islamization of northwestern Africa, starting with word-borrowing during the 7th century A.D. and through State Arabic Language Officialisation post independence in 1962, as cultural phenomena without extensive genetic replacement. According to this study the historical origins of the NW African Y-chromosome pool may be summarized as follows: 75% E1b1b (M78, M35, and M81) from the Upper Paleolithic , 13% J (J1-M267 and J2-M172) from the Neolithic, 4% historic European gene flow and 8% recent sub-Saharan African. They identify the "75% NW African Upper Paleolithic" E1b1b component as "an Upper Paleolithic colonization that probably had its origin in Eastern Africa", which further studies have narrowed down specifically to the Horn of Africa, and which is supported by other studies: "E3b originated in sub-saharan Africa and spread to the Near East and North Africa at the end of the Pleistocene". The North-west African population's 75% E1b1b Y chromosome genetic contribution from the Horn of Africa contrasted with a 78% contribution to the Iberian population from western Asia, suggests that the northern rim of the Mediterranean with the Strait of Gibraltar acted as a strong, albeit incomplete, barrier. However this study only analysed a small sample of Moroccan Y lineages. However if the Y-chromosomal lineages contribution of North Africa to Iberia is about 7%, mtDNA contribution is much larger and can be estimated at 18%.

A more recent and thorough study by Arredi et al. (2004) which analyzed five additional Arab and Berber populations from Algeria, Egypt, and Tunisia concludes that "the North African pattern of Y-chromosomal variation" (including both E1b1b and J haplogroups) "is largely of Neolithic origin", which suggests that "the Neolithic transition in this part of the world was accompanied by demic diffusion of Afro-Asiatic-speaking pastoralists from the Middle East". Further evidence for a significant Neolithic contribution to the population was later provided by Myles et al. (2005):

The data presented here are consistent with a scenario in which proto-Berber-speaking ovicaprid pastoralists introduced the –13910T allele, and thereby lactose tolerance, into North Africa. This scenario implies a genetic input from migrating pastoralists from the Middle East and suggests that contemporary Berber populations share a Middle Eastern dairying origin with other Eurasian populations.

Cruciani et al. (2004) note that the E1b1b1b (M81) haplogroup on the Y-chromosome, colloquially known as the "Berber marker", correlates closely with Berber populations.

Nebel et al. (2002) of the Hebrew University argue that J1-M267 rather reflects "recent gene flow caused by the migration of Arabian tribes in the first millennium of the Common Era(700-800 A.D)." According to Nebel, the indigenous population of the Maghrib, the Berbers, have always been a composite people. After the 8th century CE, a process of Arabization affected the bulk of the Berbers, while the Arab-Islamic culture and population absorbed local elements as well. Under the unifying framework of Islam, on the one hand, and as a result of the Arab settlement, on the other, a fusion took place that resulted in a new ethnocultural entity all over the Maghrib. Another study on Haplogroup J (Semino et al. 2004) agrees with Nebel et al.'s suggestion that J1-M267 may have spread to North Africa in historic times (as identified by the motif YCAIIa22-YCAIIb22; Algerians 35.0%, Tunisians 30.1%), which they assume to be a marker of the Arab expansion in the early medieval period.. This theory is disputed by Arredi et al. (2004), who argue like Bosch et al. 2001 that the J1-M267 haplogroup (formerly H71) and North African Y-chromosomal diversity indicate a Neolithic-era "demic diffusion of Afro-Asiatic-speaking pastoralists from the Middle East."

Mitochondrial DNA

mtDNA, by contrast, is inherited only from the mother.

According to Macaulay et al. 1999, "one-third of Mozabite Berber mtDNAs have a Near Eastern ancestry, probably having arrived in North Africa ∼50,000 years ago, and one-eighth have an origin in sub-Saharan Africa. Europe appears to be the source of many of the remaining sequences, with the rest having arisen either in Europe or in the Near East." [Maca-Meyer et al. 2003] analyze the "autochthonous North African lineage U6" in mtDNA, concluding that:

The most probable origin of the proto-U6 lineage was the Near East. Around 30,000 years ago it spread to North Africa where it represents a signature of regional continuity. Subgroup U6a reflects the first African expansion from the Maghreb returning to the east in Paleolithic times. Derivative clade U6a1 signals a posterior movement from East Africa back to the Maghreb and the Near East. This migration coincides with the probable Afroasiatic linguistic expansion.

A genetic study by Fadhlaoui-Zid et al. 2004 argues concerning certain exclusively North African haplotypes that "expansion of this group of lineages took place around 10,500 years ago in North Africa, and spread to neighbouring population", and apparently that a specific Northwestern African haplotype, U6, probably originated in the Near East 30,000 years ago but has not been highly preserved and accounts for 6-8% in southern Moroccan Berbers, 18% in Kabyles and 28% in Mozabites. Rando et al. 1998 (as cited by ) "detected female-mediated gene flow from sub-Saharan Africa to NW Africa" amounting to as much as 21.5% of the mtDNA sequences in a sample of NW African populations; the amount varied from 82% (Tuaregs) to 4% (Rifains). This north-south gradient in the sub-Saharan contribution to the gene pool is supported by Esteban et al. Nevertheless, individual Berber communities display a considerably high mtDNA heterogeneity among them. The Berbers of Jerba Island, located in South Eastern Tunisia, display an 87% Eurasian contribution with no U6 haplotypes, while the Kesra of Tunisia, for example, display a much higher proportion of typical sub-Saharan mtDNA haplotypes (49%, including 4.2% of M1 haplogroup), as compared to the Zriba (8%). According to the article, "The North African patchy mtDNA landscape has no parallel in other regions of the world and increasing the number of sampled populations has not been accompanied by any substantial increase in our understanding of its phylogeography. Available data up to now rely on sampling small, scattered populations, although they are carefully characterized in terms of their ethnic, linguistic, and historical backgrounds. It is therefore doubtful that this picture truly represents the complex historical demography of the region rather than being just the result of the type of samplings performed so far." Additionally, recent studies have discovered a close mitochondrial link between Berbers and the Saami of Scandinavia which confirms that the Franco-Cantabrian refuge area of southwestern Europe was the source of late-glacial expansions of hunter-gatherers that repopulated northern Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum and reveals a direct maternal link between those European hunter-gatherer populations and the Berbers.


The Berber languages form a branch of Afro-Asiatic, and thus descended from the proto-Afro-Asiatic language; on the basis of linguistic migration theory, this is most commonly believed by historical linguists (notably Igor Diakonoff and Christopher Ehret) to have originated in east Africa no earlier than 12,000 years ago, although Alexander Militarev argues instead for an origin in the Middle East, a theory that has met little support. Ehret specifically suggests identifying the Capsian culture with speakers of languages ancestral to Berber and/or Chadic, and sees the Capsian culture as having been brought there from the African coast of the Red Sea. It is still disputed which branches of Afro-Asiatic are most closely related to Berber, but most linguists accept at least one of Semitic and Chadic as among its closest relatives within the family (see Afro-Asiatic languages.)

The Nobiin variety of Nubian contains several Berber loanwords, according to Bechhaus-Gerst, suggesting a former geographical distribution extending further southeast than the present.

There are between 14 and 25 million speakers of Berber languages in North Africa (see population estimation), principally concentrated in Morocco and Algeria but with smaller communities as far east as Egypt and as far south as Burkina Faso.

Their languages, the Berber languages, form a branch of the Afroasiatic linguistic family comprising many closely related varieties, including Tarifit, Kabyle and Tashelhiyt, with a total of roughly 35-40 million speakers. A frequently used generic name for all Berber languages is Tamazight.

Ethnic groups

Religions and beliefs

Berbers are mostly Sunni Muslim, while the Mozabites of the Saharan Mozabite Valley are mostly Ibadite.

Important Berbers in Islamic history

Yusuf ibn Tashfin

(c. 1061 - 1106) was the Berber Almoravid ruler in North Africa and Al-Andalus (Morrish Iberia).

He took the title of amir al-muslimin (commander of the Muslims) after visiting the Caliph of Baghdad 'amir al-moumineen" ("commander of the faithful")and officially receiving his support. He was either a cousin or nephew of Abu-Bakr Ibn-Umar, the founder of the Almoravid dynasty. He united all of the Muslim dominions in the Iberian Peninsula (modern Portugal and Spain) to the Kingdom of Morocco (circa 1090), after being called to the Al-Andalus by the Emir of Seville.

Alfonso was defeated on October 23, 1086, at the battle of Sagrajas, at the hands of Yusuf ibn Tashfin, and Abbad III al-Mu'tamid.

Yusuf bin Tashfin is the founder of the famous Moroccan city Marrakech (in Berber Murakush, corrupted to Morocco in English). He himself chose the place where it was built in 1070 and later made it the capital of his Empire. Until then the Almoravids had been desert nomads, but the new capital marked their settling into a more urban way of life.

Abu Abd Allah Muhammad Ibn Tumart

(c. 1080 - c. 1130), was a Berber religious teacher and leader from the Masmuda tribe who spiritually founded the Almohad dynasty. He is also known as El-Mahdi (المهدي) in reference to his prophesied redeeming. In 1125 he began open revolt against Almoravid rule.

The name "Ibn Tumart" comes from the Berber language and means "son of the earth."

Tariq ibn Ziyad

(d. 720), known in Spanish history and legend as Taric el Tuerto (Taric the one-eyed), was a Berber Muslim and Umayyad general who led the conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711. He is considered to be one of the most important military commanders in Spanish history. He was initially the deputy of Musa ibn Nusair in North Africa, and was sent by his superior to launch the first thrust of an invasion of the Iberian peninsula. Some claim that he was invited to intervene by the heirs of the Visigothic King, Wittiza, in the Visigothic civil war.

On April 29, 711, the armies of Tariq landed at Gibraltar (the name Gibraltar is derived from the Arabic name Jabal Tariq, which means mountain of Tariq, or the more obvious Gibr Al-Tariq, meaning rock of Tariq). Upon landing, Tariq is said to have burned his ships then made the following speech, well-known in the Muslim world, to his soldiers:

أيّها الناس، أين المفر؟ البحر من ورائكم، والعدوّ أمامكم، وليس لكم والله إلا الصدق والصبر...
O People ! There is nowhere to run away! The sea is behind you, and the enemy in front of you: There is nothing for you, by God, except only sincerity and patience. (as recounted by al-Maqqari).

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta

(born February 24, 1304; year of death uncertain, possibly 1368 or 1377) was a Berber Sunni Islamic scholar and jurisprudent from the Maliki Madhhab (a school of Fiqh, or Sunni Islamic law), and at times a Qadi or judge. However, he is best known as a traveler and explorer, whose account documents his travels and excursions over a period of almost thirty years, covering some 73,000 miles (117,000 km). These journeys covered almost the entirety of the known Islamic world, extending from present-day West Africa to Pakistan, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and China, a distance readily surpassing that of his predecessor, near-contemporary Marco Polo.

Abu Ya'qub Yusuf

(died on July 29, 1184) was the second Almohad caliph. He reigned from 1163 until 1184. He had the Giralda in Seville built.

Abu Yaqub al-Mustansir Yusuf

Caliph of Morocco from 1213 until his death. Son of the previous caliph, Muhammad an-Nasir, Yusuf assumed the throne following his father's death, at the age of only 16 years.

Ziri ibn Manad

(d. 971), founder of the Zirid dynasty in the Maghreb.

Ziri ibn Manad was a clan leader of the Berber Sanhaja tribe who, as an ally of the Fatimids, defeated the rebellion of Abu Yazid (943-947). His reward was the governorship of the western provinces, an area that roughly corresponds with modern Algeria north of the Sahara.

Muhammad Awzal

Muhammad ibn Ali Awzal or al-Awzali was a religious Berber poet. He is considered the most important author of the Tashelhiyt (southern Morocco Berber language) literary tradition. He was born around 1670 in the village of al-Qasaba in the region of Sous, Morocco and died in 1748/9 (1162 of the Egira).

Muhammad ibn Sulayman al-Jazuli al-Simlali

From the tribe of Jazulah which was settled in the Sus area of Morocco between the Atlantic Ocean and the Atlas Mountains. He is most famous for compiling the Dala'il al-Khayrat, an extremely popular Muslim prayer book.

Important Berbers in Christian history

Before adhering to Islam, most Berber groups were Christians, and a number of Berber theologians were important figures in the development of Western Christianity. In particular, the Berber Donatus Magnus was the founder of a Christian group known as the Donatists. The 4th century Catholic (i.e. common or universal) Church viewed the Donatists as heretics and the dispute lead to a schism in the church dividing North African Christians. The Romano-Berber theologian known as Augustine of Hippo (modern Chaoui city of Annaba, Algeria), who is recognized as a saint and a Doctor of the Church by Roman Catholicism and the Anglican Communion, was an outspoken opponent of Donatism. Many believe that Arius, another early Christian theologian who was deemed a heretic by the catholic Church, was of Libyan and Berber descent.

Berber Jews

Berber culture


Of all the fathers of the church, St. Augustine was the most admired and the most influential during the Middle Ages... Augustine was an outsider - a native North African whose family was not Roman but Berber... He was a genius - an intellectual giant.

Famous Berbers

See also


  • Brett, Michael; & Fentress, Elizabeth (1997). The Berbers (The Peoples of Africa). ISBN 0-631-16852-4. ISBN 0-631-20767-8 (Pbk).
  • The Civilizations of Africa: A History to 1800 by Christopher Ehret
  • Egypt In Africa by Celenko
  • Stone Age Races of Northwest Africa by L. Cabot-Briggs
  • The people of Africa (People of the world series) by Jean Hiernaux
  • Britannica 2004
  • Encarta 2005
  • Blanc, S. H., Grammaire de la Langue Basque (d'apres celle de Larramendi), Lyons & Paris, 1854.
  • Cruciani, Fulvio, et al. (2004) "Phylogeographic Analysis of Haplogroup E3b (E‐M215) Y Chromosomes Reveals Multiple Migratory Events Within and Out Of Africa". American Journal of Human Genetics, 74: 1014–1022
  • Entwhistle, W. J. The Spanish Language, (as cited in Michael Harrison's work, 1974.) London, 1936
  • Gans Eric Lawrence, The Origin of Language, Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, 1981.
  • Geze, L., Elements de Grammaire Basque, Beyonne, 1873.
  • Hachid, Malika, Les Premiers Berberes EdiSud, 2001
  • Hagan, Helene E., The Shining Ones: an Etymological Essay on the Amazigh Roots of Ancient Egyptian Civilisation. (XLibris, 2001)
  • Hagan, Helene E. Tuareg Jewelry: Traditional Patterns and Symbols, (XLibris, 2006)
  • Harrison, Michael, The Roots of Witchcraft, Citadel Press, Secaucus, N.J., 1974.
  • Hualde, J. I., Basque Phonology, Routledge, London & New York, 1991.
  • Martins, J. P. de Oliveira, A History of Iberian Civilization, Oxford University Press, 1930.
  • Myles, Sean, et al. (2005) "Genetic evidence in support of a shared Eurasian-North African dairying origin". Human Genetics 117 (1): 34-42
  • Nebel, Almut, et al. (2002) "Genetic Evidence for the Expansion of Arabian Tribes into the Southern Levant and North Africa" (letter to the editor). American Journal of Human Genetics, 70: 1594–1596
  • Osborn, Henry Fairfield, Men of the Old Stone Age, New York, 1915-1923.
  • Renan, Ernest, De l'Origine du Langage, Paris, 1858; La Societe' Berbere, Paris, 1873.
  • Ripley, W. Z., The Races of Europe, D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1899.
  • Ryan, William & Pitman, Walter, Noah's Flood: The new scientific discoveries about the event that changed history, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1998.
  • Saltarelli, M., Basque, Croom Helm, New York, 1988.
  • Semino, Ornella, et al. (2004) "Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area". American Journal of Human Genetics, 74: 1023–1034
  • Silverstein, Paul A. Algeria in France: Transpolitics, Race, and Nation, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2004.


External links

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