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Free men

The Berbers, inhabiting North Africa, populate this territory since ancient times and represent the original ethnic stock of contemporary Morocco. As a word, "berber" comes from "barbarians" and was used by the invading populations. The name they prefer to be called with is "imazighen", meaning "free men" (singular: "amazigh").

The "tamazigh" language: Berbers left a deep-rooted linguistic mark, which even today is shared by the majority. In Morocco everybody speak Arabic, but more than a half of Moroccans know and speak a dialect of Berber origin. Although the Berber culture has been primarily oral for centuries, a rich literature dating back to three or four centuries ago is still preserved and handed down. Plus, many authors of novels, poetry, movies, theater, songs, nowadays write and publish their works in "tamazigh".

A nomadic and warlike people, likewise mystical and mysterious, the Berbers knew how to deal with other people while remaining themselves: these folks, who in their long history never carried out wars of conquest but only suffered (and sometimes effectively opposed) the domination of others, eventually gave up their more fertile lands to the invaders. Difficult to control because always on the move, the Berbers had an exclusive relationship with their territory: the deserts and mountains were a safe shelter for their camps, as well as an insurmountable barrier to the enemy.

The soul of this people made more fragile and uncertain the great victories of the past, from the Phoenicians to the Romans, from the Arabs to the French.

The Gnawa

Music and dance

The Gnawa are an ethnic group descending from African and South-Saharan ancient slaves. The music that even today is used in sacred ceremonies is repetitive and hypnotic, and can induce a state of trance; music and dances are also used to treat diseases of the psyche or cure the bite of scorpions.


In 1954 Jaques Meunier and Charles Alain discovered some rock engravings near Touza cemetery. Some of these carvings represent beefs and antelopes as well as graphic representations of human beings. Further engravings represent small carts and even Libyan-Berber writings (tifinagh).


The Ramadan (name given to the ninth Islamic lunar month of the year) is certainly the most important religious holiday. All Muslims must observe fasting from dawn to dusk. Banks and offices can change their opening time, while many shops close earlier or may not open at all; in any case the tourist restaurants continue to offer their services. During Ramadan you should not eat, drink or smoke in public, as a form of respect towards Muslims. Since the Muslim year is 13 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the Ramadan month falls 13 days earlier each year. This year, Ramadan starts on the 21st or 22nd August.

Small dictionary

Words found in text

-kasbah: Southern fortified farmhouse, built of mud and earth, where one only patriarchal family lives

-ksar (plural: ksour): fortified village of Pre-Saharan Morocco, built of mud and earth

The ksar consists of a group of houses, tightly closed against each other, with narrow streets that can be covered to stand up well to the heat, protected by a wall with one gate which used to be watched in the past                           

-erg: in the Sahara, this is a region characterized by huge dunes

-hammada: Sahara stony highlands covered with large pebbles originated by the erosion of rocks

-dar: house

-palmeraie: palm groves