People of Morocco Berbers and Arabs

People of Morocco

People of Morocco population is heterogeneous and composed of different ethnic groups:

Berbers: Morocco’s population consists of nearly 34 million people, most of whom live along the northern coastal strip and northwest of the Atlas Mountains. Morocco’s original population – like those of Tunisia, Algeria, and many other nation-states in North Africa, are Berbers. They settled in the region of today’s kingdom some 6,000 years ago and still live today as semi-nomads or arable farmers in the country’s mountainous regions.

Arabs: Besides the Berbers, mainly Arabs live in Morocco, who came to the country in various waves of immigration and partly assimilated the existing population. Today’s Arabs live mostly in large cities.

Gnawa: There is also a black minority of people in Morocco – the so-called Gnawa or Haratin. Their arrival dates back to slavery in the 11th century.

Europeans: Furthermore, there are about 60,000 to 100,000 foreigners living in the country, who mostly come from Spain or France.

Berbers in Morocco:

peopel of Morocco

The ethnic designation for Berber seems to be a foreign designation of traders and conquerors rather than a proper designation for people or language. Borrowed from the Latin barbaric, the Greek barbarous, or the Arabic Barbar, Berber usually stood for the barbarian population of North Africa-from the Nile to the Atlantic coast.

We should not see the Berber people of Morocco ethnic group as a homogeneous group with one language and culture. In Morocco alone, there are several different language groups of the Afro-Asiatic Berber language with furthermore very many sub-language groups and dialects. The Berber language is passed on within the family alone. Learning the Berber language in school is not possible.

Arabs in Morocco – Origin, Power and Cultural Achievements

people of Morocco


Only about one-fifth of Moroccans are of Arab descent; the remaining four-fifths are Berbers. However, exact dates are difficult to determine, as mixing with the Arab population and the Arabization measures of the post-colonial period have 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 this spread of Islam in the eighth century, Arab troops conquered the region. From then on, they were the main force for the cultural development of the country. Today, their palaces and mosques are among the most imposing buildings in Morocco.

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

Haratin people of Morocco – name meaning and language:


The Haratin have freed slaves who have black skin due to their origin in southern Africa. Haratin (singular: Hartani) is an ambiguous term used to describe oasis farmers, especially throughout the Arabophone region of the Sahara and Sahel, who were dependent on a nomadic lord. This lord owned the plantations, fields, and palm oases in which the Haratin had to work – quite similar to a feudal relationship.

In Morocco today, Haratin lives mainly in the south of the country – near the border regions with Western Sahara and Mauritania. They have primarily adopted Arabic as their language and have thus consciously chosen not to use the Berber language.

Haratin is still subject to prejudice and discrimination (but this is mainly in Mauritania). Simply because of their skin color and indeterminate origin – apart from immigration as slaves, almost nothing is known about this – they are stigmatized with a unique character and also like to be “lumped together” with the Gnawa.

Gnawa in Morocco – Beliefs:

Moroccan peopel

The Gnawa are also an ethnic minority of former slaves south of the Sahara. They differ from the Haratin especially in their beliefs: according to their origin, the Gnawa combine beliefs of Islam with pre-Islamic practices of sub-Saharan Africa, especially from the old Mali empire. In broad terms, this involves spirit powers that can take possession of people if special ritual practices are not performed against them.

These include above all music and dances, for which the Gnawa and their music are internationally famous. An international Gnawa music festival takes place annually in Essaouira. At the festival itself, the journey of the religion from tradition to modernity can be experienced very clearly.

Spaniards and French in Morocco:

Approximately 60,000 to 100,000 foreigners still live in Morocco – most of them from Spain and France. After, the country got independence in 1956 from the two former protectorate powers.

Spain and France, and the sovereign state of Morocco were proclaimed. Some of the French and Spanish who used to work in the administration have remained in the country.

Islam & people of Morocco:

The state religion in Morocco is Islam. About 98.7% of the population are Muslims, of which 90% are Sunnis of the Malikite school of law. King Mohammed VI is the ruler of the faithful and thus the protector of Islam in Morocco.

Christianity in Moroccan people:

Approximately 1.1% of the population professes Christianity and are mostly Catholics. Only about 0.2% are believers in Judaism. There are hardly any places of worship other than mosques in Morocco. Synagogues and churches are not recognizable as large buildings in the cityscape. The Christian and Jewish faiths are thus mostly practiced in small groups or within the family.

Morocco forbids and punishes missionary work among Muslims. This includes distributing Christian literature, especially in Arabic.

The law permits Conversion from Islam to Christianity or to another religion. But social duck and social isolation are the consequences of this change, which is why conversions are very rare in the country.

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