The Berbers are the indigenous people of North Africa and live in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The Berbers, who once ruled over kingdoms in the region, were conquered by the Arabs at the beginning of the seventh century. Although mostly Muslim, Moroccan Berbers retain their ancient customs and festivals, especially in rural areas, and many speak a dialect known as Tamzight although it is not an officially recognised language.
Outside of the cities, in and around their small villages, the Berbers have an agricultural lifestyle – keeping sheep and goats and growing crops e.g. mint, cereals, alfalfa, vegetables and fruit.
The Berbers refer to themselves as Amazigh, which means ‘free men’.
Berber village of Telouet
The High Atlas Berber village of Telouet has a fascinating history. In the village you can visit the Kasbah of el Glaoui, former Berber War Lord and Pasha of Marrakech, and walk through the small village where the descendants el Glaoui’s slaves live. In the region are pink salt mines that were once an important staging post for the camel caravans. The area of Telouet also offers wonderful trekking opportunities including a remote High Atlas Lake if want to add in a day’s hike.
Colourful Berber souks play an important role in Moroccan village life and there is a weekly souk on a Thursday when you can wander amongst the local community as they shop for meat on the hoof, dates, spices, fresh vegetables and all manner of household goods. Donkey is a common mode of Berber transport to the market and there is Donkey Park, with attendant, which incurs a donkey parking fee.
UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Benhaddou
The World Heritage Site of Ait Benhaddou is one of Morocco’s most spectacular ksours (fortified villages) that once stood on the route of the camel caravans as they made their way across the High Atlas to the fondouks of Marrakech. There is the opportunity to walk through the village, dated as no earlier than 17th century, to the granary in the keep at the top for 360degree views and to appreciate how well located the village was for its defence.