ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⴻⵏ Imaziɣen
البربر al-Barbar
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Morocco Morocco 28,000,000 [1]
Algeria Algeria 20,500,000 [2]
Mali Mali 800,000 [3]
Niger Niger 750,000 [4]
Mauritania Mauritania 680,000 [5]
Libya Libya 470,000 [6]
Tunisia Tunisia 86,000 [7]
Egypt Egypt 10,000 [8]

North African Arabic, Berber dialects, French, Spanish


Islam Mostly Sunni Islam, a minority practicing Ibadi Islam, also Christianity Christianity and
Judaism Judaism[9]

The Berbers (Berber: ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⴻⵏ Imaziɣen, Arabic: البربر al-Barbar) are an Afro-Asiatic ethnic group that is native to North Africa and mostly the Maghreb region of it. The Berber people have played a dominating force on the histories of Algeria and Morocco, many Arabs of North Africa area actually pure Berbers by descent, the actual fluent speakers of Berber are much lower in count. Many of the ancient Berber kingdoms served as provinces or vessel states of the Roman Empire up until the Arab and Islamic conquest of North Africa in 698 A.D., where many embrace the Arab pan-ethnicity and adopted Arab culture. The Berbers were also known for their seafaring skills, often becoming travellers and explorerers, both independant or servants of imperial powers.


The Berbers have been referred to by different names by those who have been and conquered North Africa including the Romans, Byzantine, Persians and Arabs. The Romans referred to them as barbarians. The Arabs called them barbar (Arabic: البربر) and Greeks referred to them as Libyans. Other terms that have been used for the North African tribes include Numidians and Amazigh. But most historians agree that the term "Berber" is from the Arabic and Latin term. The European armies also referred to the Berbers as "Moors" with their Arab counterparts; the Muslims of North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula and the Italian . Today, the term Moors refer to Muslims of North Africa who are of mixed Arab and Berber descent, who make up Tunisia and Algeria's populations. But because countries with Berber communities like Morocco and Algeria are members of the Arab League, whose inhabitants are known as Arabs, many Berbers are also considered to be Arabs by the Arab League's definition which goes as anybody who speaks Arabic.


Classical Berber Kingdoms 202 B.C.-698 A.D. Edit

North Africa was inhabited by Afro-Asiatic tribes as early as 50,000 B.C. Their lives were highly characterized by "Neolithic" agriculture. Masinissa, the leader of an eastern Berber federation state fought a western federation

Ptolemy of Mauretania

which was led by a Berber king by the name of Syphax. Polybius, a Greek historian travelled to North Africa in 200 B.C. and referred to the people as the "Numidians". During a military rivalry with the Romans (known as the Punic Wars, see below) and the Carthigians the North African rival of the Romans, the eastern Berbers sided with Carthage and the western sided with Rome. After the Romans defeated the Carthiginians, the eastern Masinissa was given control of Syphax's former territory. West of the Numidian kingdom was another Berber state whos coasts were under Carthigian control but its inland under Berber control King Atlas was a legendary king of MauretaniaBronze bust of Ptolemy credited with the invention of the celestial globe. A man by the name of Bagas was the first-recorded king of Mauretania. It's latter king, Bocchus I was the father-in-law of Numidia's king, Jugurtha who he later stopped as a result of Jugurthine resistance to Roman annexation. In 33 B.C., the Romans annexed Mauretania as an ally state. Juba II was placed as its ruler. His son Ptolemy (Greek: Πτολεμαῖος, Latin: Ptolemaeus) succeeded the throne when he died in 23 A.D., and would become Mauretania's most influential king. In 17 A.D., a war guerrilla civil war ensued in both Berber states. The twenty-four year old mobilized an army and used the rebels' own tactics against them, which resulted in his recognition of him as a Roman ally. In 40 A.D. however, he was assassinated by the Roman emperor Caligula, who was regarded as one of Rome's worse emperors who brought a reign of terror on Rome itself and its territories beyond the Italian Peninsula. Ptolemy's post-death marked an era of civil war in Mauretania, divding the state into two provinces. Claudius, Caligula's successor annexed Mauretania as a Roman province in 44 A.D.[10]

Jugurthine War 112 B.C.-105 B.C.Edit

Jugurtha, one of Masinissa's adopted descendants quarelled with his biological sons for the succession of the Numidian throne. Jugurtha also attacked Latin merchants when he sacked and sieged Cirta, a capital of Adherbal, a biological heir of Masinissa. The capturing of these marchants angered the Roman governers and was determined to declare war against Numidia. A Roman "consul" by the name of Lucius Calpurnius instead resorted to diplomatic means with Jugurtha.[11] After the murder of one of Jugurtha's possible rivals in Rome, the Romans could no longer retain relations with the Numidians. In 110 B.C., he drove an army led by Aulus Postumius Albinus out of North Africa. In 109 B.C., consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus sent an army that did manage to press some of Jugurtha's forces, but they refused to submit and continued to harrass Roman soldiers through guerilla warfare. In 105 B.C., Bocchus I, the king of the neighboring Berber state of Mauretania, defeated Jugurtha, trapped him and sent him to Rome where he was executed.[12]

Islamization & Arab Conquest 647 A.D.Edit

In the seventh century, a new monotheistic religion in Arabia was being birthed by Muhammad known as Islam, of the Arab tribe known as the Quraysh. In 647 A.D., the Umayyads, an early Muslim kingdom invaded North Africa and took Libya. That same year, the Byzantine governor in North Africa, Count Gregory declared independence and led a resistance against the Muslim invasion. He was defeated 150 miles south of Carthage in Sufetula by the Muslim armies. In 655, another invasion was led in which Tunisia was captured by the Arab armies. After the Muslims succeeded in the third invasion of the Maghrebi region, the Yemeni general who led the invasion Musa bin Nusair became the region's governor. After suffering guerilla attacks by resistors and Byzantine soldiers, he conquered the Christian settlements in North Africa which included the islands of Ibiza, Majorca and Minorca. In 700, the Muslims took Algeria. By 711, North Africa was under complete Umayyad rule and became Islamized. In 670 in the city of Kairouan, the Arab conqueror Iqba ibn Nafi found the building of the Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia's first and oldest mosque. Under the Arab rule, most of the Berbers were converted to Islam and Christianity declined in North Africa. They also became Arabized, Berber converts to Islam adopted Arabic names and customs, although many succeeded in keeping their native Berber language alive. The invasion had a negative effect on the Berber language, decreasing its amount of speakers as Arabic came to replace Berber in many of the former Christian communities.

Umayyad-Moorish Conquest of Spain 711 A.D.Edit

Tariq ibn Ziyad on horse

Tariq ibn Ziyad

In 711 A.D., Tariq ibn Zayid led a Berber army of the Umayyad Caliphate to invade the Visigoth Kingdom, a kingdom that flourished in the Southern Iberian Peninsula. They won a decisive victory over a Visigoth defense led by Roderic, who was killed in the battle. The Christian armies never successfully defend Spain or Portugal and the Muslim armies continued to conquer the Iberian Peninsula until all that remained of the once powerful Christian kingdoms in Iberia were to that of northern settlements near France. Ordo the Great, a prominent European general was able to give a temporary halt to the Muslim invasions in 721 at the Battle of Toulouse however, the Umayyads quickly amassing another invasion force to defeat Ordo at the Battle of the River Garonne. The mixed Berber, Muslim Iberia-Arab army also conquered the city of Córdoba and established an Umayyad province led by Abd-ar-Rahman I. Later, the Umayyads abandoned the territory and an independent

German map of Al-Andalus

caliphate was established in 929 A.D. with Abd-ar-Rahman III (Arabic: عبد الرحمن الثالث) as the caliph of Córdoba, and became the Iberian Peninsula's most powerful Muslim ruler. There was never any clear owner of the Iberian Peninsula following successive civil wars between different Muslim groups for control of peninsula. The Muslim-controlled areas of the peninsula was given the name "Al-Andalus" (Arabic: الأندلس). The Muslim rule of the Iberian Peninsula would have an everlasting impact on Spain and Portugal's culture. Many Arabic words and linguistic traditions can be found adopted in modern-day Spanish culture, such as the guitar which itself is an Arabic word. The European Christian armies later eventually took back the Iberian Peninsula and in 1492, the Muslims were expelled from Spain along with Jews. Muslims who converted to Christianity under the Spanish Crown's order were known as Moriscos, these people were Catholics by recent affiliation but kept their Berber/Arab and Muslim culture alive. Some even continued to practice Islam in secret.

Almoravid Dynasty 1040-1147Edit

The Almoravids ruled the western region of North Africa, known as the Maghreb and the southern Iberian Peninsula
Gold Almoravid finar

Gold dinar from the Almoravids

known as Al-Andalus. They found the city of Marrakesh in Morocco in 1062 which became their capital. This dynasty was found by the Berber tribes known as the Lamtuna and the Gudala, who lived in the Sahara region along Draa and Senegal rivers. The Almoravids thwarted a Spanish and European invasion of Al-Andalus when they defeated them in Sarajas which strengthened their hold of the southern Iberian Peninsula. However, the Almovarid rule of Spain and Portugal fell from revolts. Ishaq ibn Ali, the last Almoravid ruler of Al-Andalus was killed in Morroco by Almohad rebels.

Travels of Ibn Battuta - late 1300sEdit

Ibn Battua was a well-renowned Islamic scholar and explorer who gained his popularity among historians by travelling around theIbn Battuta entire world. In 1325, Battuta left his homw to make his first hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam, he also travelled to Damascus along the way. Battuta chose to continue on north and visit the Mongol territories. He also visited Iraq, the entire Arabian Peninsula and Somalia. In 1330, he set out with Persian caravans and translators to visit the Mamluk Sultanate in India in China. Other places he visited included Al-Andalus, the Kingdom of Mali - another Muslim kingdom in Africa. Filipino historian José Rizal claimed that he also visited the Philippines in Southeast Asia where he met a local princess by the name of Urduja, although this is in debate among historians who mostly agree that Urduja was a fictitious character of Battuta's accounts.

Spanish Protectorate 1913-1956Edit

Despite the former Reconquista rivarly between the Muslim Berber/Arabs and  the former Spanish monarchy, Morocco and Spain managed to engage in a joyful age of diplomatic relations as a result of Spain's conversion to a republic. In 1921, a Berber-Arab by the name of Abd El-Krim waged an independence war against both the Moroccan sultanate that had existed at the time as well as the Spanish enclaves and found the Republic of the Rif. Spanish forces later took the Rif region back from him. In 1912, Spain created a protectorate in Morocco. Unlike the Reconquista era, Muslims and Jews were able to practice their religions unharmed. Spain even permitted Islamic juristiction to thrive, such as the qadi system, Islamic jurisdiction. In 1936, a Spanish nationalist by the name of Francisco Franco declared an independence war against Spain's republican government. Because he had Moroccan supporters, he gave Morocco many more benefits following his victory. Spain's rival, France also owned Moroccan territory. in 1956, Spain dissoluted the protectorate after northern Moroccan territory formerly held the French gain independence. However, Spain continued to control some territories and enclaves in the Sahara region.

French Colonialization 1830-1956Edit

Towards the end of 1700s, the French wanted to invade North Africa to continue Napoleon Bonaparte's will. Charles X was also determined to carry out this campaign to win a civil war that had been raging in France. French General Count de Ghaisnes de Bourmont and Admiral Guy-Victor Duperré sent ground and naval forces in Algerian territory. The Ottoman governors of Algeria were unable to stop the French forces, who had artillery and superior military technology and were defeated in the modern-day Algerian municipality of Staouéli. Bertrand Clauzel, a French military leader who occupied the Algerian cities of Médéa and Blida. Clauzel administered Algeria and recruited Berbers and Arabs into the French army, who were known as zouaves; natives of North Africa who served in the French infantries. In 1831, Baron Berthezène took Clauzel's spot and highly opposed colonialism, and was also a weak military leader who lost most of his battles against native resistance. In 1834, Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon became the official governer of the new French colony of Algeria. Emīr ʿAbd al-Qādir or his full name, Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine was a prominent Arab ruler in Algeria who led a resistance movement against France. A Berber army led by Qādir successfully defeated a French force led by Camille Alphonse Trézel in the city of Macta, which ended up humiliating and embarrassing the French armies but was later defeated in the Battle of Sikkak. Algerians consider ʿAbd al-Qādir to be a national hero and a modern-day version of Jugurtha. In 1881, Tunisia was established as a French protectorate. In 1912, Sultan Abd al-Hafid of Morocco signed the Treaty of Fez with the French that turned southern Morocco into a French protectorate while northern Morocco fell under Spanish control. Morocco did enjoy a period of self-identity under French rule, while absorbing much French influence. In 1956, Mohammad V, Morocco's sultan was able to give Morocco independence from French rule through diplomatic means. Other Berber-Arab nations in North Africa that had been under the rule of this European power included Chad, Mauritania (not to be mistaken for the ancient Berber state "Mauretania") and Burkina Faso.

Berbers During World War II 1939-1945Edit

When European countries started turning into war machines in the 1930s (specially Germany and Italy), the thirst for territory turned to North Africa. Without help or consent from any Berbers or other African natives, the European powers annexed and decided borders upon themselves. France and Britain, two of Germany's worse enemies all owned territories in North Africa as you just read, the French had most control of the Maghreb region. Under Adolf Hitler, an Austrian revolutionary, German enmity against France and Britain was growing until it led these Germans and Italians to ally themselves for an invasion of North Africa. The Berbers were part of the Middle Eastern theater of World War II and commonly served in the French army. In 1935, Italian forces entered Ethiopia. Most of the battles took place in Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia. British forces in Egypt could not stand the Axis (Germany and its allies) invasion. Adolf Hitler sent his best and most talented general, Erwin Rommel to handle the British and French allies in North Africa which proved to be a success. The invasion of North Africa also fueled American intervention, even that did not help. It isn't until Britain sent Sir Bernard Montgomery and the United States sent George Paton, two generals who were considered national bests, to North Africa. Erwin Rommel was finally defeated at the Battle of El Alamein in Egypt in 1943. The Axis forces finally retreated to Italy. After the victory, the territory of Palestine and what is now the State of Israel became British territory which was known as Mandatory Palestine.

Impact on Maghreb Nations TodayEdit

The proud heritage, culture and history of the Berbers reflected that of Persia and generally stood out against Arabism. Algeria and Morocco are Arab states by political and linguistic definition (members of the Arab League), the Berber language (see language section below) retains its status as official languages ins these nations. Many Algerians who are native-Arabic speakers even consider themselves to be Berbers, and prefer to be known as "Arab-Berbers" or "Arabized Berbers".


The ethnic Berbers speak an isolate Afro-Asiatic language known as the Berber language as their native tongue
Berber-Arabic translation

Translations between Berber and Arabic

which is mostly spoken in the Maghreb region of North Africa with communities of speakers in Libya. Berber is an official language in Algeria and Morocco alongside Arabic. Because of the Arabizing of North Africa, many historical Berber tribes also lost touch with their language, adopting Arabic as their native language as they embraced the Arab pan-ethnicity. The actual native Berber-speakers are far-lower than the entire census of those who consider themselves to be Berbers, which has become a cultural and ancestral term in countries like Algeria rather than a language-defined group. Only 20,000,000 out of 80,000,000 classified-as Berbers actually speak the Berber language while the other speaks only Arabic. For this reason, most Algerians consider themselves to be "Arab-Berbers" and ethnographers consider them as "Arabized Berbers". The Berber language is written in a native script known as Tifinagh which originated from the Taureg tribe. During the Islamic conquest of North Africa, it was written in the Arabic script and a Latin script exists today. As usual, regardless of Berber-speaker or not, Berbers speak fluent Arabic since Morocco and Algeria are Arab states. Berber is not an official language in Tunisia. Even after French and Spanish colonization ended, the French and Spanish languages still remained on a fluent status among the Berbers and Arabs of North Africa. Many Berbers can speak fluent French and a small population in northern Morocco can speak Spanish. These Berbers follow a Hispanized culture and also engage in a lot of Spanish media. These two foreign languages are of the Italic language family.


Following the Islamic expansion into North Africa, most Berbers were converted to Islam. 
Great Mosqe of Kairouan

Great Mosque of Kairouan

Most Berbers are adherents to the traditional Sunni section of Islam. There is also a group following an Islamic reformist section known as Ibadism (Arabic: لاباضية) who believe in dissociation from the eternally damned and do not believe that people will spend a time in hell before being cleaned but instead after death, resembling the Christian perspective. Before the Islamic expansion, most Berbers were Christians as a result of European colonization from the Romans and Byzantines. Roman Catholicism was re-introduced when European colonization of North Africa was revived following France and Spain's campaigns and successful annexation of North African states into their kingdoms. Many Berbers still follow Christianity today, mainly in northern Morocco where they are also submerged in Spanish influence. There is a small as well as a historical population that follows Judaism, many of these are descendants of Sephardic Jews that were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula following the Spanish inquisition. They settled with Berbers in the mountains.


Alcazar of Seville

Alcázar of Seville

Berber art and architecture contains influences from Roman, Arabic and French architecture. Of course, since most Berbers are Muslims, most of their architecture was based on Arabic or Persian examples but have grown into a distinct type of Islamic architecture known as Moorish, which was dominated by Berbers. Some historical castles can be found in Timimoun in Algeria and the Aït Benhaddou in Morocco's Sahara region. The Kasbah of the Udayas is a historic Islamic fortification and community in Rabat that was built by the Almoravids, following the destruction of a former Islamic community that they destroyed. Some of these can also be found in Spain, such as the Alcazaba of Málaga in Granada, a city once the home of a sultan in Spain. The Alcázar of Seville in Spain was built by the Almohads.


Berbers generally tend to follow the respective culinary traditions of their countries, which are mostly dominated by Arab, Turkish and French/Spanish influence and generally enjoy a wide range of different regional tastes. The
Tunisian couscous

Tunisian couscous

staple meats of most Berbers in their culinary diets include beef, mutton, lamb, camel, seafood and rabbit since North Africa is a maritime region, although the most consumed red meat is beef. Tomato sauce is a popular staple ingredient in Maghrebi cuisine. The main dish in Morocco and other Maghreb nations including Libya is a Berber dish known as couscous (Berber: ⵙⴽⵙⵓ seksu) which is a steamed durum wheat dish that is commonly topped with vegetables and meats. Zaalok is a Moroccan salad that is mostly from eggplant and tomatos as well as spices. In Algeria, lamb is more consumed than beef in


Morocco. In Algeria, a Berber-style pita bread known as khabz is eaten with every meal which reflects the Arab tradition of eating flatbread with every meal. Merguez is a popular lamb sausage. Chakhchoukha is a popular stew in Algeria that is made with bits and pieces of flatbread and mixed with a stew known as marqa. The desserts of Algeria reflect Turkish influence, with the high use of nougate and asida. In all the Maghreb nations, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan spans an arraying haven of sweets such as the popular Ramadan halwa cookies. One distinct aspect of Algerian desserts is the high use of honey. As for Tunisia, the popular dish is lablabi (Arabic: لبلابي) which is a soup that uses cumin as its main flavoring base and chick peas. Couscous is also eaten in Tunisia, as it is in Morocco or Algeria. Tunisian seafood dishes include brik which as a tuna-pocket dish. Tunisians also consume and cook all the parts of a fish. In Libya, is a traditional sausage known as usban (Arabic: عصبان). Usban is stuffed with foods such as rice and organ meats such as heart or liver. Bazeen (Arabic: بازين) is a Libyan dish that is high in starch, which is made of barley. Tea is an essential part of Berber cuisine in the Maghreb nations. Green tea is the one of the most popular types. Coffee also is a popular beverage. And of course, pork or alcohol is not part of Berber cuisine since Islamic culinary and moral laws known as halal (Arabic: حلال) forebids the consumption of pork or alcohol. Even the Berber Christians or Berber Jews do not consume pork since pork was never part of the Maghreb or the Arab World's culinary history.

Notable Berbers of People of Berber OriginEdit



The last ally ruler of Rome in Mauretania who led an influencial reign over the vassal kingdom


The king of the eastern Berber kingdom of Numidia who led an allyship with Rome


A Numidian king who led a famous revolt against the Roman Empire

Abdul-Qadir bin Muhiedine

An Algerian Islamic scholar and leader who led a resistance against the French

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo
An influential religious leader from what is today the Algerian city of Annab (then Roman province of Africa) who is a founder father of Western Christianity and Western Philosaphy and the Church

Tariq ibn Ziyad

Tariq ibn Ziyad
The Muslim general who led the invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, his ancestry is some debate with some historians, Arabic sourcs point out Berber, Persian or Arab ancestry himself. He is considered part of the Arab panethnicity.


A Numidian queen, religious and military leader that led a resistance against the Arab conquest of Numida, what is today Algeria

Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta
A Moroccan Islamic explorer who is famous for travelling around the world and recording people's cultures, he is the most popular traveller of the Muslim World and is also renowned by European and western historians


Actual name is ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad bin ʾAḥmad bin Rušd or Ibn Rushd, an Andalusian Muslim polymath, a master of Aristotelian philosophy, Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, Maliki law and jurisprudence, logic, psychology, politics and Andalusian classical music theory, and the sciences of medicine, astronomy, geography, mathematics, physics and celestial mechanicshe has been described as the "founding father of secular thought in Western Europe"
A Moroccan slave and explorer who worked for Portugal and later sold to Spaniards, accompanied Spain to their voyage in the New World and the first person from Africa to arrive in the modern-day United States, he is also theorized to be the earliest Muslim and from North Africa to venture in the New World

Leo Africanus

Leo Africanus
Born as Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi and baptized as Joannes Leo Africanus, a Moorish diplomat and author who is best known for his descriptions of Africa, providing European monarchs information about Africa


A prominent Athenian philosapher from Algeria who wrote several books of witchcraft and mysticism, his most famous work is his bawdy picaresque novel, the Metamorphoses, otherwise known as The Golden Ass. It is the only Latin novel that has survived in its entirety. It relates the ludicrous adventures of one Lucius, who experiments with magic and is accidentally turned into a donkey.

Kateb Yacine

Kateb Yacine
An Algerian writer and playwrite who contributed to Berber nationalism, notable for his novels and plays, both in French and Algerian Arabic dialect, and his advocacy of the Berber cause

Abd-el Krim

Abdel Krim
Moroccan military leader and politician who founded the short-lived Republic of the Rif, he led a large-scale revolt by a broad coalition of major Rif tribes against French and Spanish colonial occupation of the Rif, a large Berber-speaking area in northern Morocco, culminating in the establishment of the short-lived Republic of the Rif. His guerrilla tactics are known to have influenced Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong, and Che Guevara


Loreen 2
A popular Swedish pop singer, represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Baku, Azerbaijan, with her entry "Euphoria" and won the contest with 372 points. In Eurovision Song Contest 2013 in the Swedish city Malmö, Loreen sang both in the semi final and the grand final. Born to Moroccan parents

Hindi Zahra

Hindi Zahra
A French-Moroccan singer who writes many English and Berber-language songs, In November 2010, she won the Prix Constantin for Best Album.[5] In February 2011, she won the Victoires de la Musique award for the best World music album.

Saïd Taghmaoui

A French actor and screenwriter, known for his role as Saïd in the 1995 French film La Haine and in the 1999 film Three Kings and the 2005 film Traitor, born in France to Moroccan Berber parents

Karim Benzama

A French football (soccer) player who plays for the Spanish club Real Madrid who is known for his style of play and scoring ability, born in France to Algerian parents.

Zinedine Zidane

An assistant coach and sporting director at Real Madrid, and a former French football player who won many championships and ranked as one of Europe's best, he has won the FIFA World Player of the Year three times, and the Ballon D'Or once, he was Ligue 1 Player of the Year in 1996, Serie A Footballer of the Year in 2001 and La Liga Best Foreign Player in 2002. He is of Algerian Berber descent.

Footnotes and CitesEdit

  6. Salem Chaker
  8. Salem Chaker