 an Overview | North Africa | Berbers

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   AN OVERVIEW The numerous Berber tribes inhabit much of Northern Africa, mainly in the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia).They can also be found in parts of Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger and Mauritania as can be seen in FIG 1.Of these areas, the Berber’s tend to settle inland and once the Arabs began their conquest of Northern Africa, towards the inaccessible mountains and deserts. In modern times they have migrated to cities in Spain and France across the Mediterranean to look for work. FIG 1
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  - 1 -  AN OVERVIEW  The numerous Berber tribes inhabit much of NorthernAfrica, mainly in the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia).They can also be found in parts of Libya,Egypt, Mali, Niger and Mauritania as can be seen in FIG1.Of these areas, the Berber’s tend to settle inland andonce the Arabs began their conquest of NorthernAfrica, towards the inaccessible mountains anddeserts. In modern times they have migrated to citiesin Spain and France across the Mediterranean to lookfor work. The many indigenous tribes of North Africa arecollectively referred to as the Berbers, but the nameBerber refers to hundreds of tribes spread acrossNorthern Africasharing the sameSemitic culture.Because of theArab culturebeing heavilyintegrated intoBerber culture,Berber’s aredefined by thelanguage theyspeak of whichthere are 27 with over 300 dialects.Unlike many other indigenous groups, Berber’s makeup a large proportion of the populations of thecountries they inhabit; there are approximately19 000 000.berbers alive today but numbers havebeen falling as more Berbers adopt the Arab cultureand language. (AMAZIGH)THETRIBE Countries inhabited by the Berber tribes include Algeria,Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Theyare all located in Northern Africa. www.mapsofworld.comwww.africaguide.com/culture/tribes/berber.htm MAP OF THE AREAS INHABITEDBY BERBER’S FIG 1 NumberofBerbersinNorth African Countries 30000020000050000650000650 0001500001500006 50000010400 000MoroccoAlgeriaTunisiaLibyaEgyptMaliNiger MauretaniaBurkinaFasso  - 2 -  A DESCRIPTION OF THE BERBERPEOPLE’S CULTURE  The Berber society is based on the clan andIslam.Before colonisation, the Berbers wereanimists, worshipping rocks, springs, riversand mountains and venerating the sun,moon and stars. As the Arabs colonisedNorth Africa and introduced Islam, theBerbers integrated it into their paganpractises. Today, Berbers make very devotedMuslims (except they do not followRamadan) but retain many pagan practises,often related to agriculture.Most Berbers have been settled farmerssince being visited by the Phoenicians in814BC. They live in stone houses in villagesand herd sheep and goats up the mountainsto graze, growing wheat, barley, olives, nutsand a variety of fruits and vegetables furtherdown in the valleys. A small minority remainsemi-nomadic, living in compacted mudhouses and goat’s hair tents when atpasture.As most Berbers are settled farmers, theylive in a tribe made up of several clans.Family is the basis for all social life. Eachperson is expected to have a deep loyalty totheir community ant its moral code as isrepresented in this Middle Eastern Proverb: Myself against my brothers, my brothersand myself against my cousins, my cousinsand my brothers and myself against theworld.”Each tribe is centred on blood-tieswith a common ancestor. Each householdin the tribe is under the control of theeldest male and can have up to fiftyinhabitants.“Hashumah”, the code of good mannersindicates what is proper to do and say andoutlines obligations.Women in Berber society have morefreedom than many other Arab women. They do not have to wear a veil, canchoose to divorce and retain their dowry.Women also perform home industriesincluding; pottery, basket making andweaving.“Jama’ah”, the meeting of adult males inthe village square is the political powercentre. A village head is elected for alimited term although often the wealthywield much of the power. Nomadic tribeselect apermanent chief and council, the semi-nomadic tribes a seasonal chief whooversees the migrations. The community is obliged to protect anyguests, to repair town buildings andoperate granaries.  AN OUTLINE OF THE IMPACTSCOLONISATION HAS HAD ONTHE BERBERS  The Berbers have been colonised manytimes over from Ancient times through totoday. Because of this, they have not felt asmany impacts as many other indigenouscultures have when they were introduced tothe modern world.From the earliest possible period, theBerbers have been visited form the outsideworld, beginning with the ancient Greeks andPhoenicians. However, although the Greekshad settlements along much of the coastline,they did not mix with the Berbers as theylived further inland. The same can be said forthe Romans who did not have the incentiveto conquer the Berbers but who did settlefurther inland and affect a few tribes. Tothem, they introduced settled farminginstead of the nomadic lifestyle the Berbershad been living and Christianity which was atits height in the 3 rd century but which wentinto decline along with the Roman Empire. Tokeep the Romans from penetrating furtherinto the desert the Berbers paid the Romanstribute. AND THE IMPACTSOF COLONISATIONON THEIR CULTURE,LIFESTYLE ANDENVIRONMENT   BerberHousing Colonize” Encarta Dictionary  2006 [DVD]. MicrosoftCorporation, 2005.An example of a typical Berber house. They have oneroom used for eating, living and sleeping. Sources ContentsAn overviewThe cultureColonisations  - 3 - After the decline of the Romans the Berberswere left alone for several decades until643AD when the Arabs began their conquestof Northern Africa. At this time, manyBerbers volunteered to fight for the Arabsagainst the Berbers who wouldn’t complywith the Arabs. In return they were promisedvast riches from their conquests. However,after the Berbers were conquered themercenaries did not receive their paymentsand rebelled against their Arab counterparts.For a very long time there was much fightingbetween the Arabs and the Berbers but withthe Berbers always on the back foot.Eventually they were driven back into theinaccessible Atlas Mountains and SaharaDesert.During their contact with the Arabs, theBerbers learnt much from their enemies(who were very scientifically advanced forthe time) including; medical, religious andarchitectural advances. However, once theArabs had colonised the Berbers land theyoverworked the land and cut down the treesto create grazing land for their animals whichhas enabled the beginning of the expandingSahara desert and loss of arable farm land. There were also periods of French ColonialRule and Independent Rule but I don’t havetime to tell you about this.Society to Conquer theBerbers TimeframeGreeks and Phoenicians814BC-140BCRomans146BC-429ADArabs645AD –711ADOttomans16 th -17 th centuryFrench1830AD- postWW2Independent rulePost WW2- 
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