Berber/Amazigh

Task 1: Watch the video and write five facts about the Berber/Amazigh religion and people.

The traditional Berber/Amazingh religion is the ancient and native set of beliefs and deities adhered to by the Berbers/Amazigh of North Africa.

The Berbers would have been present in the Maghreb for more than 5000 years. Mysterious people, many historians have tried to define their origins without ever achieving it. Persian, Medes, Canaanite, Indian origins… The Berbers are found everywhere … and nowhere.

The word Berber comes from the Greek « Barbaros », which at that time designated all “non-Greek” persons, so the foreigners. Today Berbers prefer the term “Amazigh” which means “free-man”.

Crafts occupy an important place among the Berber populations. The most widespread crafts are:

  • Pottery for making dishes, jars and jugs necessary for daily life.
  • Woolen weaving for carpets, clothing, blankets and khaïmas (nomad tents).
  • The work of metal and silver for the magnificent Berber jewels and the famous Azlag daggers, which takes its name from a village located at the exit of Kelaat El M’Gouna and the valley of the roses.

Task: What does the term nomad mean? Why were the Berber people nomadic (find the answer here)?

The legend of the fiancés of Imilchil

It is said that a young man named Moha and a young woman named Hada from the two rival tribes of Ait Ibrahim and Ait Yaazza fell deeply in love with each other. Their tribes, however, were constantly feuding over grazing areas and water resources, which left their love story unfulfilled and their passions unsatisfied. The fiancés of Imilchil are the Romeo and Juliet of the High Atlas. They experienced the same tragic destiny: to die without being able to love each other and to marry. They cried so much that their tears created the twin lakes Isli (the boy) and Tislit (the girl).

They drowned in their own tears, without the opportunity to marry. Their parents, repentant, decided that once a year, young men and women could choose each other freely, and would not encounter any opposition to their union: it is the “Moussem of engagement”.

This celebration is referred to as the Imilchil Festival, organised every year in late September in the lake plateau of the Middle Atlas Mountains.

In the past, from the age of 18, single men and women from the Amazigh tribe of Ait Haddidou would dress up in their finest attire and head to the village of Imilchil for the wedding festival in search of their future partners. Today, most of the couples already know each other and simply take advantage of the festival as an opportunity to secure a marriage licence. Women put on natural makeup such as kohl (traditional eyeliner) and henna and wear a traditional tahendirt (cape or cloak) ornamented with glittering coins. They also cover their faces with scarves, allowing only their mascaraed eyes and crimson cheeks to show.

Traditionally, in the souk of Ait Amar in the Atlas Mountains, women wandered in groups between stalls and tents while men eyed them from a distance. The prospective partners exchanged smiles and looks of potential interest. If the two matched, they might continue the stroll in the souk hand in hand as if they had known each other for years. At the end of the day, they would meet with their respective families, agree on a dowry in the presence of a judge, and sign a marriage contract. The day would finish when the couple bought victuals for the long winter, during which they would remain cut off from the outside world due to heavy snow and rain. With their marriages cemented and provisions bought, the new couples mounted their donkeys or mules and went back home. Those who failed to find a match were forced to wait until the next festival.

The timing of the festival coincides with the end of summer and the harvest season. Therefore, it is an occasion for the tribesmen and women not only to marry, but also to trade what they have harvested or made by hand. Traded goods include locally-made, traditional Amazigh carpets, wool and woolen garments, tahendirt (women’s cloaks), goats, sheep, livestock, and other agricultural products such as apples, almonds, and walnuts. The festival is also an occasion to bolster cultural tourism, as it has become a major tourist attraction throughout the years. Both Moroccan and international tourists annually visit the festival in varying numbers to explore the history and the cultural uniqueness of the place and its inhabitants.

Task: What is a Berber or traditional Moroccan wedding like? Write a paragraph explaining the key elements of the wedding. Information is here.

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