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  • Writer's pictureNative Morocco

How to Experience Berber Culture in Morocco

Arabic Berber family sitting around a large plate of couscous
A Moroccan family at meal time.

Did you know that Morocco has two main ethnic groups? While the Arab culture is predominant in Moroccan culture, Berber culture has more influence in the desert and mountainous region. If you would like to learn and experience this indigenous tribe, then continue reading on!

Brief History of Berber Culture in Morocco

The Berbers are the indigenous tribe of Morocco, they are a pre-Arab culture who have defended and ruled their country for hundreds of years. The actual name of the Berbers is “Amazighs” which means “free people”. Most Moroccan Berbers live in the mountains, valleys, the coast, or the desert. Their lifestyle mostly involved farming, but the tourist industry for them is growing strongly.

Where can I go to experience Berber Culture?

You can experience the Berber culture throughout different parts of Morocco. The Atlas Mountains are one of the more popular areas to experience Berber culture. You’ll often find that the people in villages in the Atlas Mountains speak their languages rather than Arabic or French. The Saharah Desert and certain areas close to the sea also offer Berber tribes offering their own unique experiences to educate visitors on the Berber Culture.

Is it possible to experience Berber Culture in cities?

It is possible to get a small taste of Berber culture while still staying in the hustle and bustle of the city. Many souks will sell specialized items that are handmade from Berbers, and there are even some restaurants in Marrakech that offer traditional Berber cuisine. The Musée Berbère is a museum in Marrakech within the Jardins Majorelle compound that is also dedicated to educated visitors on Berber culture. While you can technically get a small experience of the Berber culture from within a city, it’s still best to go out and have a true experience. Tickets need to be purchased in advance online, and it is worth purchasing the three-in-one visitor ticket that grants you access to the Berber Museum, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum and the Jardins Majorelle.

One of the closest places from Marrakech to experience Berber culture would be the Ourika Valley. This valley is located in the foothills of the beautiful Atlas Mountains. This area offers wonderful day trips to enjoy the scenery and go on small hikes along the river. The village of Setti Fatma was once a Berber settlement but the locals have turned it into a tourist attraction. You’ll still get your authentic Berber experience topped off with cooking lessons, educational tours, and plenty of shops selling handmade goods and art.

Where are the best villages to learn about Berber culture?

Tafza is a village that’s excellent for learning about traditional Berber life. In the nearby archaeological site of Aghmat, you’ll get to learn about the settlement that was once the nation’s capital. There are other villages in the High Atlas Mountains such as Asni that offer a look into the modern way of life for the Berber tribe.

What are some Berber holidays?

The Berber culture celebrates some of its unique holidays and celebrations. Yennayer is the new year for Berbers. This takes place on January 14th where a large family feat happens. This is to celebrate the new year in their agrarian calendar. Boujloud takes place right after Eid al Adha, and the celebration lasts for three years. This celebration can vary depending on the area the Berbers live in. But regardless of the region, they all celebrate by dancing, singing, and playing music and is guaranteed to be a wonderful celebration to witness if you ever have the chance!

Photos sourced by Shutterstock and Upsplash

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