The word Amazigh means “free humans” or “free men.” Amazigh are an ethnic group indigenous to North Africa and represent the indigenous population of the North African region, where they have resided for over 4000 years. They were the original inhabitants of North Africa before the 7th century Arab invasion. The Amazigh population amounts to around 30 to 40 million people and they live in North Africa, mainly in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco. Small Berber populations are also found in Niger, Tunisia, Burkina Faso Mali, Mauritania, and Egypt, as well as large immigrant communities living in Belgium, Canada, France, Netherlands, Germany, and other countries of Europe. Currently they represents between 40 and 50 percent of Morocco’s population and between 25 and 30 percent of Algerians. It is noteworthy that Amazigh people consider themselves the original inhabitants of North Africa are believed to have been the first people to live in Morocco before Islam arrived to the country.
They are light skinned people, are incredibly friendly, and will offer to share a glass of famous Moroccan mint tea or cook you a traditional Moroccan dish for your dinner. Guests are held in high esteem and treated very well. Hospitality is taken very seriously. In the markets of Marrakech or Fez and you will find many examples of Berber craftsmanship. Berbers are often portrayed as nomadic people crossing the desert on camels, but most are farmers in the mountains and valleys. Their homes are made of clay, adobe, stone and/or brick, and for nomadic Berbers, tents made out of wool and goat hair. They raise sheep, cattle and goats. Traditionally, men look after the livestock whilst the women look after the family and make handicrafts such as pottery, rugs and jewelry for sale at the local Souq. Whilst this practice is still common, especially in rural Morocco, modernity has drawn many to work in the cities, often in the tourist trade due to their hospitable nature and broad knowledge of their country.
Majority are Sunni Muslims, but there are many traditional practices found among them. Many converted to Islam slowly, over the course of centuries, and was not dominant until the sixteenth century. In the years following the spread of Christianity across North Africa, many Berbers lived as Christians and Jews. The Islamic conquest of the 7th century brought with it forced conversions to Islam, against which the Berbers fought strongly but to which they finally submitted.