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Imazighen

Amazigh WomenThese photos are of Imazighen women who are exceptionally unique and colorful in their dress as well as their heritage. Unfortunately, the Imazighen people have been absorbed into the world of Arabs and Islam and face the loss of their own language and their own exceptional culture.

When referring to this people the word Imazighen is the plural form of the masculine singular Amazigh or Mazigh. This violates the sacred matriarchal Tamazight; ignoring the matriarchal nature of the their culture. Likely a result of being drawn into patriarchal cultures dominated by men.

These beautiful women are unique unto themselves and exhibit a singular independence which they still exude from their nomadic appearance and colorfully expressive dress. Much of their tradition was connected with a matriarchal culture where the women played a large and strong role in the heirarchy of the family and the society.

The Imazighen people, indigenous to North Africa have most often been referred to as Berbers. (Berber: ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ Imaziɣen, singular: ⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ Amaziɣ/Amazigh) The term 'Berber' is simply a variation of the original Latin word Barbarian. Historically it was used by the Romans specifically when referring to their northern hostile neighbors from Germania - now modern Germany. Back then it was supposedly a derogatory term used for all non-Greek or non-Roman speakers.

Amazigh WomenBut contrary to some sources, the Amazighs were not called barbarians by the Greeks or Romans. They were known as Libyans or Mazyes to the ancient Greeks. They were known by other names to the Romans - as Numidians, Mauri and Moors.

It is said that the name Berber was due to the Amazigh being called Al-Barbar by the Arabs because they would not surrender easily. It may well be that the modern European languages and others adopted it from the Arabic language. The fact that the name Berber is a strange name to the Amazigh led to confusion. The word 'berber' does not mean anything to the Amazigh themselves. Amazigh themselves preferred Imazighen (singular for Amazigh) meaning "free people".

Some sources claim that the Berbers are numerous ethnic groups whom are not related to each other, but this is not accurate, as the Berbers refer to themselves as Imazighen throughout all of North Africa - from Morocco to Libya including the Egyptian oasis of Siwa and across about half of the Sahara Desert.

They are most populous in Morocco, but they also have a presence in Burkina Faso, Algeria, Mauritania, Mali, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Niger. It is believed that the Amazigh make up at least more than 50 percent of the Moroccan population and at least 30 percent of the population of Algeria.

Amazigh WomenThe Amazigh language, Tamazight, exists in several dialects. It has the status of being a national language in Niger and Mali. Although technically, this recognition has been extended to the Tamazight language in Morocco and Algeria, it has not been given the same status as the Arabic language. Amazigh people in both Morocco and Algeria continue to fight for the preservation of the Tamazight language.

Although the Amazigh and their presence in Morocco predates the arrival of Islam and the Arabic language, many of the Amazigh have been assimilated into the largely Islamic and Arabic society in Morocco.

Many Amazigh fear that this phenomenon will result in a total loss of their language and distinct identity. To take away pride from indigenous people then deprive them of the values at the heart of their existence, rather than preserve their priceless world heritage, goes against all human ideals supposedly echoeing across the moral world.

The Berber Tuareg of the Sahara were also brought under the hammer in recent decades when they were forced to perform some patriarchal concessions to abandon a number of Tamazight matriarchal institutions including the "sacred matrilineal naming system".

The Amazigh mentality, their cheerful attitude to life, their customary equal justice and the exemplary tribal council of the elders consisting of both female and male members of the society, and all the other good and unique components that distinguish Tamazight society from the war-mongering ideals thriving in neighbouring and far distant countries is what is at risk in the loss of their culture.

Amazigh WomenThere are three distinct Amazigh groups in Morocco. They are the Brabers of the Atlas mountains, the Chlouhs of Southern Morocco and the Riffians residing in Northern Morocco.

In Algeria, there are the Bilda Amazigh in the central region, the Chaoui Amazighe of Eastern Algeria, the Chenoui Amazigh of Western Algeria, the Kabyles of Northern Algeria, the Mozabites of the M'zab Valley, the Tlecen Amazigh of the Aith South villages of Western Algeria, and the Zenatas in Western Central Algeria.

In Tunisia, there are the Chenini and Duaret Amazighe, the Djerba Amazigh, and the Malmata Amazigh in the south of the country.

In Egypt are the Siwi Amazigh of the Siwi valley in Egypt and the Nafusis of Western Libya, and the Zuwaras of Northwest Libya.

The Kabyles or Kabylians are another Amazigh people whose traditional homeland is highlands of Kabylia in northeastern Algeria which speak the Kabyle variety of Tamazigh languages.

Since the "Berber Spring" in 1980, they have been at the forefront of the fight for the official recognition of their own language in Algeria.

Other Amazigh are the Zenaga people of Northwestern Mauritania and the Tuaregs inhabit the Sahara.

Amazigh WomenToday many of the Amazigh also speak Arabic because of the later arabization of the region. But, between 14 and 25 million Amazigh-speaking people live within this region. In Spain, a majority of Melilla's 80,000 inhabitants, and a minority of Ceuta's inhabitants, speak an Amazigh language.

The Amazighs, are generally referred to as Berbers (Berber: ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ Imaziɣen, singular: ⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖ Amaziɣ/Amazigh) are an ethno-cultural group that reside in an area stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Siwa Oasis in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Niger River.

Since the Muslim conquest of North Africa in the seventh century, a large number of Amazigh inhabiting the Maghreb have acquired the ability to speak other languages of North Africa.

After the colonization of North Africa by France, the French government succeeded in integrating the French language in Algeria by making French the official national language and requiring all education to take place in French.

Other foreign languages, mainly French and to some degree Spanish, are spoken by most educated Amazigh in Algeria and Morocco in useful contexts, such as for higher education and/or business.

Today, most Amazigh people live in Northern African countries, mainly in Algeria and Morocco, with small Amazigh populations in Niger, Mali, Libya, Mauritania, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Egypt, as well as large immigrant communities living in France, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and other nations of Europe.

Amazigh WomenThe Amazigh identity is usually wider than merely language and ethnicity, and encompasses the entire history and geography of North Africa. Amazigh are not an entirely homogeneous ethnicity and they encompass a range of phenotypes, societies and ancestries. The unifying forces for the Amazigh people may be their shared language, belonging to the Amazigh homeland, or a collective identification with the Amazigh heritage and history.

There are some twenty-five to thirty million Amazigh speakers in North Africa. The number of ethnic Amazigh - including non-Amazigh speakers, is far greater, as a large part of the Amazigh have acquired other languages over the course of many decades or centuries, and no longer speak Amazigh today. The majority of North Africa's population is believed to be Amazigh in origin.

The Amazigh language is known as Berber to Europeans and as Shilha to the Arabs, while the Berbers themselves call their language Tamazight (the "gh" in the words Tamazight and Amazigh is pronounced as a sharp "r"). Tamazight has numerous dialects, due to the wide geographical separation of different Tamazight-speaking groups.

The Amazigh alphabet in antiquity is called Tifinagh and consists of a number of strange-looking phonetic symbols. It probably came from the Phoenician alphabet and has only symbols for consonants.

Some Amazigh activists have tried to augment the consonant symbols with vowel symbols. This modern form of Tifinagh is sometimes used to write Amazigh, but most people who are literate in Amazigh use the Latin letter system for writing Tamazight.

Amazigh WomenThe matriarchal name 'Tamazight', used more widely in its recent masculine and patriarchal form Amazigh, is gradually becoming known to the outside world.

Some of the best known of the ancient Amazigh are the Numidian King Masinissa, King Jugurtha, the Berber-Roman author Apuleius, Saint Augustine of Hippo, and the Berber-Roman general Lusius Quietus, who was instrumental in defeating the major wave of Jewish revolts of 115–117.

Dihya or Kahina was a female Amazigh religious and military leader who led a fierce Amazigh resistance against the Arab-Muslim expansion in North-West Africa. Kusaila was a seventh-century male leader of the Awraba tribe of the Amazigh people and head of the Sanhadja confederation.

Famous Amazigh of the Middle Ages include Yusuf ibn Tashfin, King of the Berber Almoravid Empire; Tariq ibn Ziyad the general who conquered Hispania; Abbas Ibn Firnas, a prolific inventor and early pioneer in aviation; Ibn Battuta, a medieval explorer who traveled the longest known distances in antiquity; and Estevanico, an early explorer of the Americas.

Well-known modern Amazigh in Europe include Zinedine Zidane, a French-born international football star of Algerian Kabyle descent, Loreen the Swedish-born winner of Eurovision 2012 and Ibrahim Afellay, a Dutch-born football player of Moroccan Riffian descent.

Amazigh WomenThe Maghreb or western North Africa on the whole is believed to have been inhabited by Amazigh from at least 10,000 BC. Northern African cave paintings, dating back twelve millennia, have been found in the Tassili n'Ajjer region of southern Algeria.

Others were found in Tadrart Acacus in the Libyan desert. A Neolithic society, marked by domestication and subsistence agriculture, developed in the Saharan and Mediterranean region (the Maghreb) of northern Africa between 6000 and 2000 BC.

This type of life, richly depicted in the Tassili n'Ajjer cave paintings of south-eastern Algeria, predominated in the Maghreb until the classical period.

Prehistorical Tifinagh scripts were also found in the Oran region. During the pre-Roman era, several successive independent states existed before the King Masinissa unified the people of Numidia.

In historical times, the Amazigh expanded south into the Sahara (displacing earlier populations such as the Azer and Bafour), and have in turn been mainly culturally assimilated in much of North Africa by Arabs, particularly following the arrival of the Banu Hilal in the eleventh century. However much of Amazigh culture is still celebrated among the cultural elite in Morocco, and Algeria, a precedent set as early as Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century.

The areas of North Africa which have retained the Amazigh language and traditions to a greater extent have been, in general, Morocco and the highlands of Algeria, most of which in Roman and Ottoman times remained largely independent. The Ottomans did penetrate the Kabylie area and a Turkish influence can be seen in the food, clothes and music.

Amazigh WomenThe prehistoric populations of North Africa are related to the wider group of Paleo-Mediterranean peoples.

The Afroasiatic family may have originated in the mesolithic period, perhaps in the context of the Capsian culture. DNA analysis has found commonalities between Amazigh populations and those of the Sami people of Scandinavia showing a link dating from around 9,000 years ago. By 5000 BC, the populations of North Africa are an amalgamation of Ibero-Maurisian and Capsian stock blended with a more recent intrusion associated with the Neolithic revolution. Out of these populations, the proto-Berber tribes form during the Late Bronze to Early Iron Age.

The grand tribal identities of 'Berber antiquity' - then often known as Libyans, were said to be three. Roughly, from west to east; the Mauri, the Numidians by Carthage, and the Gaetulians. The Mauri inhabited the far west - ancient Mauritania, now Morocco and central Algeria.

The Numidians were located in the regions between the Mauri and the city-state of Carthage. Both the Numidians and the Mauri had significant sedentary populations living in villages, and their peoples both tilled the land and tended herds.

The Gaetulians were less settled, with predominantly pastoral elements, and lived in the near south on the margins of the Sahara.

Amazigh WomenFor their part, the Phoenicians came from the perhaps most advanced multicultural sphere then existing, the Fertile Crescent.

Accordingly, the material culture of Phoenicia was likely more functional and efficient, and their knowledge more explanatory, than that of the early Amazigh. Hence, the interactions between Amazigh and Phoenician were often asymmetrical.

The Phoenicians worked to keep their cultural cohesion and ethnic solidarity, and continuously refreshed their close connection with Tyre, the mother city.

The earliest Phoenician landing stations located on the coasts were probably meant merely to resupply and service ships bound for the lucrative metals trade with the Iberian peninsula. It's possible these newly arrived sea traders were not at first particularly interested in doing much business with the Amazigh, due to the little profit to be made from the goods the Amazigh.

The Phoenicians established strategic colonial cities in many Berber areas, including sites outside of present-day Tunisia such as the settlements at Volubilis, Chellah and Mogador - now in Morocco.

As in Tunisia these centers were trading hubs, and later offered support for resource development such as olive oil at Volubilis and Tyrian purple dye at Mogador.

For their part, most Amazigh maintained their independence as farmers or semi-pastorals although, due to the exemplar of Carthage, their organized politics increased in scope and acquired sophistication.

Amazigh WomenThe fact that for a time their numerical and military superiority (they were the best horse riders of that time) enabled some Amazigh kingdoms to impose a tribute payable by Carthage - a condition that continued into the 5th century BC.

Also, due to the Berbero-Libyan Meshwesh dynasty's rule of Egypt (945-715 BC), the Amazigh near Carthage commanded significant respect, so in early Carthage careful attention was given to securing the most favorable treaties with the Amazigh chieftains which included intermarriage between them and the Punic aristocracy.

In this regard, perhaps the legend about Dido, the foundress of Carthage, as related by Trogus is apposite. Her refusal to wed the Mauritani chieftain Hiarbus might be indicative of the complexity of the politics involved.

Eventually the Phoenician trading stations would grow into permanent settlements, and later into small towns, which would likely require a wide variety of goods as well as sources of food, which could be procured in trade with the Amazigh.

In the 5th century BC, Carthage expanded its territory, acquiring Cape Bon and the fertile Wadi Majardah, later establishing its control over productive farm lands within several hundred kilometers.

This apropriation of such a wealth of land by the Phoenicians would surely draw some resistance from the Amazigh, although in warfare, too, the technical training, social organization, and weaponry of the Phoenicians would seem to work against the tribal Amazigh.

Amazigh WomenIt appears that the Phoenicians generally did not consider the Berbers as economic equals, but mainly employed their agricultural labor and their household services. For a period the Amazigh were in constant revolt and in the year 396 there was a great uprising.

Thousands of rebels streamed down from the mountains and invaded Punic territory, carrying the serfs of the countryside along with them. The Carthaginians were obliged to withdraw within their walls and were besieged.

Yet the Amazigh lacked cohesion, and although 200,000 strong at one point they succumbed to hunger. Their leaders were offered bribes and they gradually broke up and returned to their homes.

From that period on a series of revolts took place among the Libyan Amazigh from the fourth century onwards.

The Amazigh had become involutary 'hosts' to the settlers from the east, and obliged to accept the Punic dominance of Carthage for many centuries.

The Amazigh belonged to the lower social class when in Punic society, but even therein they persisted largely unassimilated, as a separate culture of mostly passive urban and rural poor.

In addition, and most importantly, the Amazigh peoples also formed quasi-independent satellite societies along the steppes of the frontier and beyond, where a minority continued as free 'tribal republics'.

Amazigh WomenWhile benefitting from Punic material culture and political-military institutions, these peripheral Amazigh (also called Libyans) maintained their own identity, culture and traditions, continued to develop their own agricultural and village skills, while living with the newcomers from the east in an asymmetric symbiosis.

As the centuries passed there naturally grew a Punic society of Phoenician-descent but born in Africa, called Libyphoenicians. This term later came to be applied also to the Amazigh acclimated to urban Phoenician culture.

There evolved a population of mixed ancestry, Amazigh and Punic. There developed niches in which Amazigh had proven their usefullness.

For example, the Punic state began to use Amazigh Numidian cavalry under their commanders on a regular basis. The Berbers eventually were required to provide soldiers which by the fourth century BC became the largest single element in the Carthaginian army.

Carthage was faulted by her ancient rivals for the harsh treatment of her subjects as well as for their greed and cruelty. Her Libyan Amazigh sharecroppers, for example, were required to pay one-half of their crops as tribute to the city-state during the emergency of the First Punic War.

The Punic relationship with the majority Amazigh continued throughout the life of Carthage. The unequal development of material culture and social organization perhaps fated the relationship to be an uneasy one. A long-term cause of Punic instability, there was no melding of the peoples. It remained a source of stress and a point of weakness for Carthage. Yet there were degrees of convergence on several particulars, discoveries of mutual advantage, occasions of friendship, and family.

Amazigh WomenByzantine authors mention the Mazikes Amazigh as tribal people raiding the monasteries of Cyrenaica. Garamantia was a notable Amazigh kingdom that flourished in the Fezzan area of modern-day Libya, in the Sahara desert, between 400 BC and 600 AD.

Roman era Cyrenaica became a center of Early Christianity. Some pre-Islamic Amazigh were Christians and there is a strong correlation between membership of the Donatist doctrine and being Amazigh, ascribed to its matching their culture as well as their alienation from the dominant Roman culture of the Catholic church.

The Roman era authors Apuleius and St. Augustine were born in the Roman province of Africa; claims that they had Amazigh ancestry are unproven - as is true of three popes from the province: Pope Victor I served during the reign of Roman emperor Septimius Severus, who was a North African of Roman/Punic ancestry perhaps with some Amazigh blood.

Numidia (202 – 46 BC) was an ancient Amazigh kingdom in modern Algeria and part of Tunisia that later alternated between being a Roman province and being a Roman client state.

It was located on the eastern border of modern-day Algeria, bordered by the Roman province of Mauretania in modern-day Algeria and in Morocco to the west, the Roman province of Africa (modern Tunisia) to the east, the Mediterranean to the north, and the Sahara Desert to the south. Its people were the Numidians.

The name Numidia was first applied by Polybius and other historians during the third century BC to indicate the territory west of Carthage, including the entire north of Algeria as far as the river Mulucha, about 160 kilometres west of Oran.

The Numidians were conceived of as two great groups: the Massylii in eastern Numidia, and the Masaesyli in the west. During the first part of the Second Punic War, the eastern Massylii under their King Gala were allied with Carthage, while the western Masaesyli under King Syphax were allied with Rome.

Amazigh WomenIn 206 BC, the new king of the eastern Massylii, Masinissa, allied himself with Rome, and Syphax of the Masaesyli switched his allegiance to the Carthaginian side.

At the end of the war, the victorious Romans gave all of Numidia to Masinissa of the Massylii. At the time of his death in 148 BC, Masinissa's territory extended from Mauretania to the boundary of the Carthaginian territory, and also south-east as far as Cyrenaica, so that Numidia entirely surrounded Carthage except towards the sea.

Masinissa was succeeded by his son Micipsa. When Micipsa died in 118 BC, he was succeeded jointly by his two sons Hiempsal I and Adherbal and Masinissa's illegitimate grandson, Jugurtha, of Amazigh origin, who was very popular among the Numidians. Hiempsal and Jugurtha quarreled immediately after the death of Micipsa. Jugurtha had Hiempsal killed, which led to open war with Adherbal.

After Jugurtha defeated him in open battle, Adherbal fled to Rome for help. The Roman officials, allegedly due to bribes, but more likely because of a desire to quickly end conflict in a profitable client kingdom, settled the fight by dividing Numidia into two parts.

Jugurtha was assigned the western half. However, soon after conflict broke out again, leading to the Jugurthine War between Rome and Numidia.

Amazigh WomenIn antiquity, Mauretania was an independent Amazigh kingdom under King Bocchus I (110-80 BC). It was situated on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, in modern western Algeria and northern Morocco.

Before the eleventh century, most of North-West Africa was a Amazigh-speaking Muslim area. The process of Arabization only became a major factor with the arrival of the Banu Hilal, a tribe sent by the Fatimids of Egypt to punish the Amazigh Zirid dynasty for having abandoned Shiism.

The Banu Hilal reduced the Zirids to a few coastal towns and took over much of the plains; their influx was a major factor in the Arabization of the region and in the spread of nomadism in areas where agriculture had previously been dominant.

After the Muslim conquest, the Amazigh tribes of coastal North Africa became almost fully Islamized. Besides the Arabian influence, North African population also saw an influx via the Barbary Slave Trade of European peoples, with some estimates placing the number of European slaves brought to North Africa during the Ottoman period as high as 1.25 million.

Interactions with neighboring Sudanic empires, traders, and nomads from other parts of Africa also left impressions upon the Amazigh people.

According to historians of the Middle Ages, the Amazigh were divided into two branches, Botr and Barnès, descended from Mazigh ancestors, who were themselves divided into tribes and subtribes. Each region of the Maghreb contained several tribes - Sanhadja, Houaras, Zenata, Masmouda, Kutama, Awarba, Berghwata, and others. All these tribes had independence and territorial hegemony.

Amazigh WomenSeveral Amazigh dynasties emerged during the Middle Ages in the Maghreb and Al-Andalus. The most notable are the Zirids, the Hammadids, the Almoravids, the Almohads, the Hafsids, the Zianids, the Marinids and the Wattasids.

"They belonged to a powerful, formidable, brave and numerous people; a true people like so many others the world has seen - like the Arabs, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans. The men who belong to this family of peoples have inhabited the Maghreb since the beginning." — Ibn Khaldun, 14th century Tunisian historian

Unlike the conquests of previous religions and cultures, the coming of Islam, which was spread by Arabs, was to have extensive and long-lasting effects on the Maghreb.

The new faith, in its various forms, would penetrate nearly all segments of Amazigh society, bringing with it armies, learned men, and fervent mystics, and in large part replacing tribal practices and loyalties with new social norms and political idioms.

Nonetheless, the Islamization and Arabization of the region was a complicated and lengthy process. Whereas nomadic Amazigh were quick to convert and assist the Arab conquerors, it was not until the twelfth century, under the Almohad Dynasty, that the Christian, Jewish, and animist communities of the Maghreb became marginalized.

Amazigh WomenJews persisted within Northern Africa as dhimmis, protected peoples, under Islamic law. They continued to occupy prominent economic and political roles within the Maghreb. Indigenous Christian communities within the Maghreb all but disappeared under Islamic rule, although Christian communities from Europe may still be found in the Maghreb to this day.

The first Arabian military expeditions into the Maghreb, between 642 and 669, resulted in the spread of Islam. These early forays from a base in Egypt occurred under local initiative rather than under orders from the central caliphate. But when the seat of the caliphate moved from Medina to Damascus, the Umayyads recognized that the strategic necessity of dominating the Mediterranean dictated a concerted military effort on the North African front. In 670, therefore, an Arab army under Uqba ibn Nafi established the town of Qayrawan about 160 kilometres south of modern Tunis and used it as a base for further operations.

Abu al-Muhajir Dinar, Uqba's successor, pushed westward into Algeria and eventually worked out terms with Kusaila, the ruler of an extensive confederation of Christian Amazigh. Kusaila, who had been based in Tlemcen, became a Muslim and moved his headquarters to Takirwan, near Al Qayrawan. This harmony was short-lived; Arabian and Amazigh forces controlled the region in turn until 697. By 711, Umayyad forces helped by Amazigh converts to Islam had conquered all of North Africa. Governors appointed by the Umayyad caliphs ruled from Kairouan, capital of the new wilaya province of Ifriqiya, which covered Tripolitania (currently the western part of modern Libya), Tunisia, and eastern Algeria.

Amazigh WomenThe spread of Islam among the Amazigh did not guarantee their support for the Arab-dominated caliphate due to the discriminatory attitude of the Arabs. The ruling Arabs alienated the Amazigh by taxing them heavily; treating converts as second-class Muslims; and, worst of all, by enslaving them. As a result, widespread opposition took the form of open revolt in 739-40 under the banner of Ibadin Islam. The Ibadin had been fighting Umayyad rule in the East, and many Amazigh were attracted by the sect's seemingly egalitarian precepts.

After the revolt, Ibadin established a number of theocratic tribal kingdoms, most of which had short and troubled histories. But others, like Sijilmasa and Tlemcen, which straddled the principal trade routes, proved more viable and prospered. In 750, the Abbasids, who succeeded the Umayyads as Muslim rulers, moved the caliphate to Baghdad and reestablished caliphal authority in Ifriqiya, appointing Ibrahim ibn al Aghlab as governor in Kairouan. Though nominally serving at the caliph's pleasure, Al Aghlab and his successors, the Aghlabids, ruled independently until 909, presiding over a court that became a center for learning and culture.

Just to the west of Aghlabid lands, Abd ar Rahman ibn Rustam ruled most of the central Maghreb from Tahert, south-west of Algiers. The rulers of the Rustamid imamate (761-909), each an Ibadi imam, were elected by leading citizens. The imams gained a reputation for honesty, piety, and justice. The court at Tahert was noted for its support of scholarship in mathematics, astronomy, astrology, theology, and law. The Rustamid imams failed, eithere by choice or by neglect, to organize a reliable standing army.

This important factor, accompanied by the dynasty's eventual collapse into decadence, opened the way for Tahert's demise under the assault of the Fatimids. The Muslim Mahdia was founded by the Fatimids under the Caliph Abdallah al-Mahdi in 921 and made the capital city of Ifriqiya, by caliph Abdallah El Fatimi. It was chosen as the capital because of its proximity to the sea, and the promontory on which an important military settlement had been since the time of the Phoenicians.

The Fatimids established the Tunisian city of Mahdia and made it their capital city, before conquering Egypt, and building the city of Cairo in 969.

The Almohad Empire, a powerful Amazigh empire that lasted from 1121 to 1269.

Amazigh WomenThe Muslims who invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711 were mainly Amazigh, and were led by a Amazigh, Tariq ibn Ziyad, though under the suzerainty of the Arab Caliph of Damascus Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan and his North African Viceroy, Musa ibn Nusayr. A second mixed army of Arabs and Amazigh came in 712 under Ibn Nusayr himself. They supposedly helped the Umayyad caliph Abd ar-Rahman I in Al-Andalus, because his mother was a Amazigh.

During the Taifa era, the petty kings came from a variety of ethnic groups; some—for instance the Zirid kings of Granada—were of Amazigh origin. The Taifa period ended when a Amazigh dynasty - the Moroccan Almoravids took over Al-Andalus; they were succeeded by the Almohad dynasty of Morocco, during which time al-Andalus flourished.

In the power hierarchy, Amazigh were situated between the Arabic aristocracy and the Muladi populace. Ethnic rivalry was one of the most important factors driving Andalusi politics. Amazigh made up as much as 20% of the population of the occupied territory. After the fall of the Caliphate, the Taifa kingdoms of Toledo, Badajoz, Málaga and Granada had Amazigh rulers. During the Reconquista, Amazigh in the areas which became Christian kingdoms were acculturated and lost their ethnic identity, their descendants being among modern Spanish and Portuguese peoples.

There is an identity-related debate about the persecution of Amazigh by the Arab-dominated regimes of North Africa. Through both exclusivities of Pan-Arabism and Islamism - their issue of identity is due to the pan-Arabist ideology of the former Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser. Some activists have claimed that it is time long past overdue to confront the racist arabization of the Amazigh lands.

Soon after independence in the middle of the twentieth century, the countries of North Africa established Arabic as their official language, replacing French, Spanish and Italian; although the shift from European colonial languages to Arabic for official purposes continues even to this day.

Amazigh WomenAs a result, most Amazigh had to study and know Arabic, and had no opportunities until the twenty-first century to use their mother tongue at school or university. This may have accelerated the existing process of Arabization of Amazigh, especially in already bilingual areas, such as among the Chaouis of Algeria. Tamazight is now taught in Aures since the march led by Mr. Salim Yezza in 2004, which has started to the teaching of Tamazight in the schools in Aures.

While Amazighism had its roots before the independence of these countries, it was limited to the Amazigh elite. It only began to gain success among the greater populace when North African states replaced their European colonial languages with Arabic and identified exclusively as Arabian nations, downplaying or ignoring the existence and the social specificity of Amazigh. However, its distribution remains highly uneven. In response to its demands, Morocco and Algeria have both modified their policies, with Algeria redefining itself constitutionally as an "Arab, Amazigh, Muslim nation".

Now, Amazigh is a "national" language in Algeria and is taught in some Amazigh-speaking areas as a noncompulsory language. In Morocco, after the constitutional reforms of 2011, Amazigh has become an official language, and is now taught as a compulsory language in all schools regardless of the area or the ethnicity.

Amazigh have reached high positions in the social hierarchy across the Maghreb; good examples are the former president of Algeria, Liamine Zeroual, and the former prime minister of Morocco, Driss Jettou.

Nevertheless, Amazigh who openly show their political orientations rarely reach high hierarchical positions. But, there are some exceptions; for example, Khalida Toumi, a feminist and Amazigh militant, has been nominated as head of the Ministry of Communication in Algeria.

Amazigh WomenIn Libya, the Amazigh were a key part of the rebel force that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi.

In the 2011 Libyan civil war, Amazigh in the Nafusa Mountains were quick to revolt against the Gaddafi regime. The mountains became a stronghold of the rebel movement, and were a focal point of the conflict, with much fighting occurring between rebels and loyalists for control of the region.

In Mali, the Tuareg, another Amazigh people, have armed themselves and are declaring a homeland in large swatches of the north."

The Maghreb today is home to large Amazigh minority populations. Amazigh forms the largest indigenous ancestry in the Maghreb; the Semitic ethnic presence in the region is mainly due to the Phoenicians, Jews and Arab Bedouin Hilallians migratory movements in the third century BC and eleventh century, respectively, which mixed in. However, the majority of Arabized Amazigh, particularly in Morocco and Algeria, claim an Arabian heritage; this is a consequence of the Arab nationalism of the early twentieth century.

Regarding the remaining populations that speak a Amazigh language in the Maghreb, they account from 50% to 60% of the Moroccan population and from 15% to 35% of the Algerian population, as well as smaller communities in Libya and Tunisia and very small groups in Egypt and Mauritania.

Prominent Amazigh groups include the Kabyles from Kabylia, a historical autonomous region of northern Algeria, who number about six million and have kept, to a large degree, their original language and society; and the Shilha or Chleuh (French, from Arabic Shalh and Shilha ašəlḥi) in High and Anti-Atlas regions of Morocco, numbering about eight million.

Amazigh WomenOther groups include the Riffians of northern Morocco, the Chaoui people of eastern Algeria, the Chenouas in western Algeria, the Berbers of Tripolitania and the Tuaregs of the Sahara scattered through several countries.

Though stereotyped in Europe and North America as nomads, most Amazigh were in fact traditionally farmers, living in mountains relatively close to the Mediterranean coast, or oasis dwellers, such as the Siwa of Egypt; but the Tuareg and Zenaga of the southern Sahara were almost wholly nomadic. Some groups, such as the Chaouis, practiced transhumance. (Transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock between fixed summer and winter pastures. In montane regions (vertical transhumance), it implies movement between higher pastures in summer and lower valleys in winter. Herders have a permanent home, typically in valleys.)

Political tensions have arisen between some Amazigh groups (especially the Kabyle) and North African governments over the past few decades, partly over linguistic and social issues. For instance, in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, giving children Amazigh names was banned. The regime of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya also banned the teaching of Amazigh languages, and the leader warned Amazigh leaders in a 2008 diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks:

"You can call yourselves whatever you want inside your homes – Amazigh, Children of Satan, whatever – but you are only Libyans when you leave your homes."

As a result of the persecution suffered under Gaddafi's rule, many Amazigh joined the Libyan opposition in the 2011 Libyan civil war.

Amazigh WomenAmazigh are mostly Sunni Muslim, while the Mozabites of the Saharan Mozabite Valley are mostly Ibadi. Until the 1960s, there was also an important Jewish Amazigh community in Morocco, but emigration (mostly to Israel and France) reduced their number to only a few hundred individuals. Following Christian missions, the Kabyle community in Algeria has a decent-sized recently constituted Christian minority, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, whereas among the 800-1500 Moroccans who have converted to Christianity in the last decades several Amazigh are found; some of them explain their conversion as an attempt to go back to their "Christian sources".

Ibn Battuta, born 1304, was a Amazigh Sunni Islamic scholar and jurisprudent from the Maliki Madhhab (a school of Fiqh, or Islamic law), and at times a Qadi or judge, but is best known as a traveler and explorer, whose account documents his travels and excursions over a period of almost thirty years, covering some 117,000 kilometres.

These journeys covered almost the entirety of the known Islamic realm, extending from modern West Africa to Pakistan, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, South-East Asia and China, a distance readily surpassing that of his predecessor, near-contemporary Marco Polo.

Traditional Amazigh religion is the ancient and native set of beliefs and deities developed by the Amazigh people in their historical land of North Africa. Many of Amazigh ancient beliefs were developed locally while some other ones were imported or influenced over time by contact from other Traditional African religions such as the Ancient Egyptian religion along with external forces from Phoenician mythology, Judaism, Iberian mythology, and the Hellenistic religion during antiquity. Some of the Amazigh ancient beliefs still exist today subtly within the Amazigh popular culture and tradition.

Traditionally in Amazigh culture, men take care of livestock. They migrate by following the natural cycle of grazing, and seeking water and shelter. They are thus assured with an abundance of wool, cotton and plants used for dyeing. For their part, women look after the family and handicrafts - first for their personal use, and secondly for sale in the souqs in the places where they live.

Amazigh WomenThe Amazigh tribes traditionally weave kilims. The tapestry maintains the traditional appearance and distinctiveness of the region of origin of each tribe, which has in effect its own repertoire of drawings. The textile of plain weave is represented by a wide variety of stripes, and more rarely by geometrical patterns such as triangles and diamonds. Additional decorations such as sequins or fringes, are typical of Amazigh weave in Morocco. The nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle of the Amazigh is very suitable for weaving kilims. The customs and traditions differ from one region to another.

The social structure of the Amazigh is tribal. A leader is appointed to command the tribe. In the Middle Ages, many women had the power to govern, such as Kahina and Tazoughert Fatma in Aurès, Tin Hinan in Hoggar, Chemci in Aït Iraten, Fatma Tazoughert in the Aurès. Lalla Fatma N'Soumer was a Amazigh woman in Kabylie who fought against the French.

The majority of Amazigh tribes currently have men as heads of the tribe. In Algeria, the el Kseur platform in Kabylie gives tribes the right to fine criminal offenders. In areas of Chaoui, tribal leaders enact sanctions against criminals. The Tuareg have a King who decides the fate of the tribe and is known as Amenokal. It is a very hierarchical society. The Mozabites are governed by the spiritual leaders of Ibadism. The Mozabites lead communal lives. During the crisis of Berriane, the heads of each tribe resolved the problem and began talks to end the crisis between the Maliki and Ibadite movements.

In marriages, the man selects the woman, and depending on the tribe, the family often makes the decision. In comparison, in the Tuareg culture, the woman chooses her future husband. The rites of marriage are different for each tribe. Families are either patriarchal or matriarchal, according to the tribe.

www.amazighinfo.skyrock.com

www.pinterest.com/MonikaEttlin/africa-adorned-morocco

www.phoenicia.org/berber.html

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