Arab is an ethnic group

People of Morocco

Morocco's population is heterogeneous and is made up of different ethnic groups:

  • Berber: Morocco's population consists of almost 34 million people, most of whom live on the northern coastal strip and northwest of the Atlas Mountains. Morocco's original population - like Tunisia, Algeria and many other national states in North Africa - are Berbers. They settled the region of today's kingdom around 6000 years ago and still live as semi-nomads or arable farmers in the mountain regions of the country.
  • Arabs: In addition to the Berbers, there are mainly Arabs in Morocco who came to the country in various waves of immigration and, in some cases, assimilated the found population. Today's Arabs mostly live in the big cities.
  • Gnawa: There is also a black minority - the so-called Gnawa or Haratin. Their arrival dates back to 11th century slavery.
  • Europeans: There are still around 60,000 to 100,000 foreigners living in the country, most of them from Spain or France.

Berbers in Morocco

The ethnic name for Berbers seems to be a foreign name for traders and conquerors rather than a proper name for people or language. Borrowed from the Latin barbari, the Greek barabaroi or the Arabic barbar, Berber mostly stood for the barbaric population of North Africa - from the Nile to the Atlantic coast.

The Berber ethnic group should not be seen as a homogeneous group with one language and culture. In Morocco alone there are several different language groups of the Afro-Asian Berber language with still very many sub-language groups and dialects. The Berber language is passed on only within the family - learning a Berber language in school is not desirable.

Arabs in Morocco - Origin, Power and Cultural Achievements

Only around a fifth of Moroccans are of Arab origin, the remaining four fifths are Berbers. However, exact dates are difficult to determine because the mixing with the Arab population and the Arabization measures of the post-colonial period pushed back the culture and language of the Berbers.

More than 1000 years ago, Bedouin tribes conquered vast areas of North Africa and Asia from the Arabian Peninsula. As part of the spread of Islam in the eighth century, Arab troops conquered the region. From now on you were the most important force for the cultural development of the country. Its palaces and mosques are among the most imposing buildings in Morocco today.

Even if the Berbers were largely able to maintain their cultural identity in the interior of the country, the Arabs brought them Islam, to which 99 percent of Moroccans profess today.

Haratin in Morocco - name meaning and language

The Haratin are released slaves who have a black skin color due to their origin from southern Africa. Haratin (singular: Hartani) is an ambiguous term that describes oasis farmers in the entire arabophone area of ​​the Sahara and the Sahel who are dependent on a nomadic lord. This owned the plantations, fields and palm oases in which the Haratin had to work - very similar to a feudal relationship.

In Morocco today, Haratins live mainly in the south of the country - near the border regions with Western Sahara and Mauritania. Above all, they have adopted Arabic as their language and have therefore made a conscious decision against a Berber language.

Haratin is still exposed to prejudice and discrimination (especially in Mauritania). Just because of their skin color and indefinite origin - apart from the immigration as slaves, almost nothing is known about this, they are stigmatized with a unique selling point and also like to be “lumped together” with the Gnawa.

Gnawa in Morocco - Faith

The Gnawa are also an ethnic minority of former slaves south of the Sahara. They differ from the Haratin especially in their beliefs: the Gnawa, according to their origin, combine the beliefs of Islam with pre-Islamic practices of sub-Saharan Africa, especially from the old kingdom of Mali. Roughly, it is about spiritual powers that can take possession of people if special ritual practices are not carried out against them.

Above all, this includes music and dances, for which the Gnawa and their music are internationally known. An international Gnawa music festival is held annually in Essaouira. At the festival itself, the path of religion from tradition to modernity can be experienced very clearly.

Spaniards and French in Morocco

Around 60,000 to 100,000 foreigners still live in Morocco - most of them are from Spain and France. After the country was granted independence in 1956 by the two former protectorate powers Spain and France and the sovereign state of Morocco was proclaimed, some of the French and Spanish who used to work in the administration remained in the country.

Get an insight into everyday village life in oasis towns and drink a cup of mint tea with Berbers ... maybe on this trip?