Moroccan people

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This article is about the people of Morocco. For a specific analysis of the population of Morocco, see Demographics of Morocco.
المغاربة Maghrībi
18 Moroccans.jpg
Total population
~ 38M
Regions with significant populations
 Morocco 33,403,000[1]
 France 1,514,000[2][3][4]
 Spain 792,158[5]
 Israel 686,600[6]
 Italy 524,775[7]
 Belgium 450,000[8]
 Netherlands 368,662[9]
 Germany 102,000[10]
 United States 77,468[11]
 Canada 71,910[12]
 Saudi Arabia 43,216
 Kuwait 21,843
 Sweden 20,000
 Australia 15,000
 Denmark 15,000
  Switzerland 13,500
 United Arab Emirates 7,400
Predominantly Arabic and Berber.
Predominantly Sunni, Nondenominational Muslims, Muwahhid, Zahiri Muslim and Sufi Islam, Judaism, Christianity.[13][14]

The Moroccan people (Berber: ⵉⵎⵓⵔⴰⴽⵓⵛⵉⵢⴻⵏ, Imgherbiyen, Arabic: المغاربة‎, al-Magharibah, Moroccan Arabic: Lemgharba) are a people that share a common Moroccan culture and ancestry.

In addition to the 33 million Moroccans in Morocco, there are large migrant populations of Moroccan origins in France, Belgium, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Libya, and smaller groups in United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Arab states of the Persian Gulf.

Morocco is a country with a multiethnic society. Throughout Moroccan history, Morocco has hosted many peoples, in addition to the indigenous Berbers, coming from the East (Phoenicians, Arabs), South (Sub-Saharan African), and North (Romans, Vandals, Spanish-Andalusians both Muslims and Jewish). All of these have left an impact on the social structure of Morocco. It has also hosted many forms of beliefs, from Paganism, Judaism, Christianity to Islam. Each region possesses its own uniqueness, contributing to the national culture. Morocco has set among its top priorities, the protection of its diversity, and the preservation of its cultural heritage.


According to the leading evolutionary theory of human origins, known as the Out of Africa theory, anatomically modern humans first emerged in Africa 150,000–200,000 years ago. All non-Africans are descended from at least one group of humans who migrated out of Africa into western Asia 50,000–70,000 years ago. The first modern humans in Europe, the Cro-Magnons, arrived from north-west Africa and are believed to have completely replaced the previous inhabitants, the Neanderthals. Cro-Magnons are known as Ibero-Maurisians or Mechta-Afalou people; they were in Morocco 45,000 years ago. They probably evolved from the Aterians, the Cro-Magnon people who had populated much of North Africa. There was a massive major human migration from Morocco, and this Paleolithic population was weakly mixed with later Capsian migrations during the Neolithic Era. This prehistoric population survived isolated in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, known in our time as Berbers.

The area of present-day Morocco has been inhabited since Paleolithic times, sometime between 90,000 and 190,000 BC.[15] During the Upper Paleolithic, the Maghreb was more fertile than it is today, resembling a savanna more than today's arid landscape.[16] 22,000 years ago, the Aterian was succeeded by the Iberomaurusian culture, which shared similarities with Iberian cultures. Skeletal similarities have been suggested between the Iberomaurusian "Mechta-Afalou" burials and European Cro-Magnon remains. The Iberomaurusian was succeeded by the Beaker culture in Morocco.


Berber Roman King Ptolemy of Mauretania.
Mosaic of Diana in Volubilis.
Ruins of Chellah, Salé.
Volubilis ruins.

North Africa and Morocco were slowly drawn into the wider emerging Mediterranean world by the Phoenicians, who established trading colonies and settlements in the early Classical period.[17] Mogador was a Phoenician colony as early as the early 6th century BC.[18][page needed]

Morocco later became part of a North African empire headquartered in Carthage. The earliest known independent Moroccan state was the Berber kingdom of Mauretania under king Bocchus I. This kingdom in northern Morocco, not to be confused with the present state of Mauritania, dates at least to 110 BC.[19]

The Roman Empire controlled this region from the 1st century BC, naming it Mauretania Tingitana. Christianity was introduced in the 2nd century AD and gained converts in the Roman towns, among slaves and some Berber farmers.

In the 5th century AD, as the Roman Empire declined, the region was invaded from the north first by the Vandals and then by the Visigoths. In the 6th century AD, northern Morocco was nominally part of the East Roman, or Byzantine Empire. Throughout this time, the Berber inhabitants in the high mountains of the interior of Morocco remained unsubdued.

Early Islamic era[edit]

In 670 AD, the first Islamic conquest of the North African coastal plain took place under Uqba ibn Nafi, a general serving under the Umayyads of Damascus. The Umayyad Muslims brought their language, their system of government, and Islam to Morocco. Many of the Berbers slowly converted to Islam, mostly after Arab rule had receded. The first independent Muslim state in the area of modern Morocco was the Kingdom of Nekor, an emirate in the Rif Mountains. It was founded by Salih I ibn Mansur in 710, as a client state to the Rashidun Caliphate. After the outbreak of the Great Berber Revolt in 739, the Berbers formed other independent states such as the Miknasa of Sijilmasa and the Barghawata.

According to medieval legend, Idris ibn Abdallah had fled to Morocco after the Abbasids' massacre of his tribe in Iraq. He convinced the Awraba Berber tribes to break their allegiance to the distant Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad and he founded the Idrisid Dynasty in 788. The Idrisids established Fes as their capital and Morocco became a centre of Muslim learning and a major regional power. The Idrissids were ousted in 927 by the Fatimid Caliphate and their Miknasa allies. After Miknasa broke off relations with the Fatimids in 932, they were removed from power by the Maghrawa of Sijilmasa in 980.

Berber dynasties[edit]

The Almoravid realm at its greatest extent, c. 1120
The Almohad realm at its greatest extent, c. 1212

From the 11th century onwards, a series of powerful Berber[20][21][22] dynasties arose. Under the Almoravid dynasty [23] and the Almohad dynasty, Morocco dominated the Maghreb, much of present-day Spain and Portugal, and the western Mediterranean region. In the 13th and 14th centuries the Merinids held power in Morocco and strove to replicate the successes of the Almohads by military campaigns in Algeria and Spain. They were followed by the Wattasids. In the 15th century, the Reconquista ended Muslim rule in central and southern Spain and many Muslims and Jews fled to Morocco.[24] Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century did not greatly affect the interior of Morocco. According to Elizabeth Allo Isichei, "In 1520, there was a famine in Morocco so terrible that for a long time other events were dated by it. It has been suggested that the population of Morocco fell from 5 to under 3 million between the early sixteenth and nineteenth centuries."[25]

Sharifian dynasties[edit]

In 1549, the region fell to successive Arab dynasties claiming descent from the Islamic prophet, Muhammad: first the Saadi dynasty who ruled from 1549 to 1659, and then the Alaouite dynasty, who remained in power since the 17th century.

Under the Saadi Dynasty, the country repulsed Ottoman incursions and a Portuguese invasion at the battle of Ksar el Kebir in 1578. The reign of Ahmad al-Mansur brought new wealth and prestige to the Sultanate, and a large expedition to West Africa inflicted a crushing defeat on the Songhay Empire in 1591. However, managing the territories across the Sahara proved too difficult. After the death of al-Mansur the country was divided among his sons.

In 1666 Morocco was reunited by the Alaouite Dynasty, who have been the ruling house of Morocco ever since. Morocco was facing aggression from Spain and the Ottoman Empire lies pressing westward. The Alaouites succeeded in stabilizing their position, and while the kingdom was smaller than previous ones in the region, it remained quite wealthy. Against the opposition of local tribes Ismail Ibn Sharif (1672–1727) began to create a unified state.[26] With his Jaysh d'Ahl al-Rif (the Riffian Army) he seized Tangier from the English in 1684 and drove the Spanish from Larache in 1689.

Morocco was the first nation to recognize the fledgling United States as an independent nation in 1777.[27][28][29][30] In the beginning of the American Revolution, American merchant ships in the Atlantic Ocean were subject to attack by the Barbary pirates. On 20 December 1777, Morocco's Sultan Mohammed III declared that American merchant ships would be under the protection of the sultanate and could thus enjoy safe passage. The Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship, signed in 1786, stands as the U.S.'s oldest non-broken friendship treaty.[31][32]


Main article: Culture of Morocco
A Moroccan kaftan

Through Moroccan history, the country had many cultural influences (Europe, Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa). The culture of Morocco shares similar traits with those of neighboring countries, particularly Algeria and Tunisia and to a certain extent Spain.

Each region possesses its own uniqueness, contributing to the national culture. Morocco has set among its top priorities the protection of its diversity and the preservation of its cultural heritage.

The traditional dress for men and women is called djellaba, a long, loose, hooded garment with full sleeves. For special occasions, men also wear a red cap called a bernousse, more commonly referred to as a fez. Women wear kaftans decorated with ornaments. Nearly all men, and most women, wear balgha (بلغه) —- soft leather slippers with no heel, often dyed yellow. Women also wear high-heeled sandals, often with silver or gold tinsel.

Moroccan style is a new trend in decoration which takes its roots from Moorish architecture; it has been made popular by the vogue of riad renovation in Marrakech. Dar is the name given to one of the most common types of domestic structures in Morocco; it is a home found in a medina, or walled urban area of a city. Most Moroccan homes traditionally adhere to the Dar al-Islam, a series of tenets on Islamic domestic life. Dar exteriors are typically devoid of ornamentation and windows, except occasional small openings in secondary quarters, such as stairways and service areas. These piercings provide light and ventilation.

Moroccan cuisine is home to Berber, Moorish, and Arab influences. It is known for dishes like couscous, pastilla, and others. Spices such as cinnamon are used in Moroccan cooking. Sweets like halwa are popular, as well as other sweets. Cuisines from neighbouring countries also influence the country's culinary traditions.

Moroccan craftsmanship has a rich tradition of jewellery, pottery, leather-work and woodwork.

The music of Morocco ranges and differs according to the various areas of the country. Moroccan music has a variety of styles from complex sophisticated orchestral music to simple music involving only voice and drums. There are three varieties of Berber folk music: village and ritual music, and the music performed by professional musicians. Chaabi الشعبي is a music consisting of numerous varieties which descend from the multifarious forms of Moroccan folk music. Chaabi was originally performed in markets, but is now found at any celebration or meeting. Gnawa is a form of music that is mystical. It was gradually brought to Morocco by sub-Saharan Africans and later became part of the Moroccan tradition. Sufi brotherhoods (tarikas) are common in Morocco, and music is an integral part of their spiritual tradition. This music is an attempt at reaching a trance state which inspires mystical ecstasy.


Main article: Languages of Morocco
Linguistic map of Morocco

Morocco's official languages are Classical Arabic and since July 2011, also "Amazigh language" which is a standardized version of the Berber languages.

The majority of the population natively speaks Moroccan-Arabic. More than 12 million Moroccans speak Berber — which exists in Morocco in three different dialects (Riff, Shilha, and Central Atlas Tamazight) — either as a first language or bilingually with Moroccan Arabic.

Hassaniya Arabic is spoken in the southern part of the country. Morocco has recently included the protection of Hassaniya in the constitution as part of the July 2011 reforms.

French is taught universally and still serves as Morocco's primary language of commerce and economics; it is also widely used in education and government.

Spanish is also spoken by some in the northern part of the country as a foreign language. Meanwhile English is increasingly becoming more popular among the educated, particularly in the science fields.

Spoken languages in Morocco[edit]

The below table presents statistical figures of speakers, based on the 2004 population census[33] (Population aged 5 and above)

Language Population
Moroccan Arabic 18.000.000
Tashlhit 7.000.000
Tamazight 5.000.000
Tarifit 4.000.000
Hsaynia 200.000


Average population Live births Deaths Natural change Crude birth rate (per 1,000) Crude death rate (per 1,000) Natural change (per 1,000) Fertility rates
1962 12 177 561 360 227 710 333 650 46.1 18.7 27.4 7.20
1975 17 072 5.91
1982 20 334 756 425 215 504 540 921 37.2 10.6 26.6 5.52
1994 25 996 675 896 174 173 501 723 26.0 6.7 19.3 3.28
2004 29 840 602 768 173 072 429 696 20.2 5.8 14.4 2.47
2010 31 894 599 607 178 606 421 001 18.8 5.6 13.2 2.19

Source: Haut-Commissariat au Plan (HCP)[34]

Ethnic groups and ancestry[edit]

Main article: Berber people

Morocco's population is composed of two major ethnic groups, the Berbers and the Arabised berbers. However,due to arabisation Berber and Arab identity became largely meaningless in many communities. In addition, because there were many marriages between Arab men and Berber women in the first centuries of Arab rule, many Arabs in Morocco today are of Berber ancestry.

Others insist on the Berber-African identity of Morocco. About 70% acknowledge a berber identity. Classical Arabic is not the only official language of Morocco and is used in limited socio-economic and cultural activities and written newspapers. There are two official languages in Morocco Arabic and Berber languages.

Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. Most if not all of the invaders into North Africa, i.e.: Phoenicians, Romans have left some imprint upon the modern Berbers as have slaves brought from throughout Europe between 1530 and 1780 in a series of raids which depopulated coastal towns from Sicily to Cornwall, England (some estimates place the number of European slaves (Saqaliba) brought to North Africa during the Ottoman period as high as 1.25 million).[35]

Jews were once a major ethnic group in Morocco as well, though the majority of them have emigrated to Israel.

Moroccan Y-DNA Haplogroups[edit]

Main article: Moroccan genetics
Population n A/B E-M33 E-V38 E-M35* E-M78 E-M81 G J-P209 R1 Reference
Morocco 87 9.2 5.7 52.8 26.4 Fadhlaoui-Zid et al. 2013[36]
Morocco 159 7 49 10 Aboukhalid et al. 2010[37]
Morocco 221 1.8 4.5 4 6.8 65 9 4 Fregel et al. 2009[38]
Morocco 38 3.9 6 55 20 3.9 Onofri et al. 2008[39]
Morocco 19 21.1 26.3 31.5 10.5 Francalacci et al. 2008[40]
Morocco 176 6.3 5.1 6.3 63.6 13.6 2.8 Bosch et al. 2001[41]
Arabs (Morocco) 49 42.9 32.6 20.4 Semino et al. 2004[42]
Arabs (Morocco) 44 6.8 2.2 11.3 52.2 15.9 6.8 Bosch et al. 2001[41]
Arabs (Morocco) 54 38.9 31.5 Cruciani et al. 2004[43]
Arabs (Morocco) 55 40 Cruciani et al. 2007[44]
Berbers (Morocco) 64 10.9 68.7 6.3 Semino et al. 2004[42]
Berbers (Marrakesh) 29 3.4 6.9 72.4 Cruciani et al. 2004[45]
Berbers (Middle Atlas) 69 10.1 71 4.3 5.8 Cruciani et al. 2004[45]
Berbers (Southern Morocco) 40 2.5 7.5 12.5 65 10 2.5 Bosch et al. 2001[41]
Berbers (North Central) 63 3.1 9.5 7.9 1.5 65 11.1 Bosch et al. 2001[41]
Berbers (Amizmiz) 33 3 3 3 84.8 Alvarez et al. 2009[46]
Berbers (Asni) 54 1.9 3.7 79.6 1.9 1.9 Dugoujon et al. (2005)[47]
Berbers (Bouhria) 67 1.5 77.6 6 1.5 6 Dugoujon et al. (2005)[47]
Berbers (Northern Morocco) 43 79.1 Ahmed Reguig et al. 2014[48]
Berbers (Southern Morocco) 187 89.8 Ahmed Reguig et al. 2014[48]
Berbers (Central Morocco) 65 98.5 Ahmed Reguig et al. 2014[48]
Moroccan Sahrawi 89 8.9 11.2 59.5 20.2 Fregel et al. 2009[38]
Moroccan Sahrawi 29 3.4 3.4 75.8 17.2 Bosch et al. 2001[41]

Berber groups[edit]

See also[edit]


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  35. ^ New book reopens old arguments about slave raids on Europe
  36. ^ Fadhlaoui-Zid et al. 2013, Genome-Wide and Paternal Diversity Reveal a Recent Origin of Human Populations in North Africa
  37. ^ Aboukhalid et al. 2010, Y Chromosomal SNP Analysis Using the Minisequencing Strategy in a Moroccan Population Samples
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  47. ^ a b The Berbers: Linguistic and genetic diversity
  48. ^ a b c Ahmed Reguig et al. 2014, Phylogeography of E1b1b1b-M81 Haplogroup and Analysis of its Subclades in Morocco.