The land of the Amazighs:
Before the start of our trip, I was doing the customary background reading. One constant mention in any travel article on Morocco is that it is the “land of the Berbers.” Berbers are the indigenous people of Morocco, but I realized after the Morocco trip that they don’t like themselves to be called Berbers due to the inaccurate connotation. Berbers are the oldest inhabitants of northern Africa. The earliest history of Berbers is found in Meshwesh dynasty in Egypt, dated more than 3000 years back. They used to live in a vast area of North Africa known as the Maghreb- from the east in Egypt to Canary island in the west and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to Senegal & Niger river in the south. They were called Berbers by then Romans as they were not Greek, and Romans characterized them as less civilized, i.e., barbaric. Clearly, they were not any less enlightened than the Romans, and these people do not appreciate this unfortunate stigma associated with their names. They prefer themselves to be called Amazigh - the freemen or the noblemen. After the Arab invasion of North Africa in the 7th Century, Amazigh people became followers of Islam. In the early days, they resisted Arab invasion. With time they ended up allying themselves with Arabs and fought together against invading forces. Today, both Morocco and Algeria have a large population of Amazighs. With thousands of years of miscegenation, a significant number of the present community is a mixed lineage of Arab-Amazigh. But they take pride in their Amazigh culture. They still speak and write the Berber language, which is very different than Arabic. In the last few years, Morocco started recognizing these ethnic groups. For example, in addition to Arabic, Berber is now the official language of Morocco for the past couple of years.