Riffian people

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Total population
~ 6M
Regions with significant populations
 Morocco 4,800,000
 France 379,952
 Netherlands 314,517
 Belgium 226,095
 Germany 120,000
Riffian, Arabic, Spanish, French
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
other Berbers

The Riffians are a Berber ethnic group who inhabit the Rif in northern Morocco. The mother tongue of the Riffians is called Riffian. Many speak Moroccan Arabic, Spanish or French as second or third languages.

Physical anthropology[edit]

Light Hair[edit]

Distribution of hair and eye colors according to Carleton S. Coon’s Races of Europe. Northern Morocco is an area of mixed (dark and light) hair and eye colours, in a higher percertage than that found in Sicily, Sardinia or even southern Spain, despite having an warmer climate. The Nordic presence in Morocco is contemporary, or even earlier, to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt.[1]

Riffians show a high percentage of blondism, higher than the other Berber groups. However, Riffians are not of homogeneous racial origin.

About two thirds of Riffians are pinkish-white skinned with mixed or light eyes (reaching 80% in central Rif). The rest are of Mediterranean (mainly of classic Mediterranean or Iberid subtype) and Alpine races.

Many Riffian Berbers show some other admixture.[2]

Blondism is strong in the Rif. Over half of the adult men show some trace of it, and almost one tenth features red hair.

Light Eyes[edit]

Moroccan Berbers of the Rif Mountains and Middle Atlas may have the highest percentages of Light Eyes in Continental Africa and Arab world.

In the Rif, dark eyes are found among 30% of the men, mixed eyes 45%, and light eyes in 25%; and the mixed eyes have green or blue elements rather than gray.[2]

Riff languages[edit]

Rif mountain ranges are located in (orange)


Riffian is a Northern Berber language of the Zenati subgroup, spoken mainly in the Rif region located in North Morocco and in various other cities by about 4 million people. There are also Riffian-speaking immigrants in Europe. The language itself is divided in several dialects, all intelligible to each clans composing the Rifian region. In neighbouring Algeria, it was spoken by Rif clans who have settled in some areas such as Bethioua. The Berber dialect spoken in Tlemcen (Beni Snouss) is often seen as an eastern variety of the language.

Regional distribution[edit]

Riffian is spoken mainly in the Moroccan Rif by about 4 million people, with a few speakers across the border in Algeria and a large minority in the Spanish Autonomous city of Melilla. There are also speakers of Riffian in Morocco outside the Rif, among significant communities in Tangiers, Tetouan, Oujda, Larache and Fes. A substantial Riffian-speaking community exists in the Netherlands as well as to a lesser extent in other European countries. Its own speakers simply call it Thamazight, or Tamazight, a term also often applied in a broader sense to Berber languages in general.

See also[edit]


Traditionally, the principal Riffian tribes of the region are:


  1. ^ Coon, Carleton Stevens (1939). "The Mediterranean World". The Races of Europe. New York: The Macmillan Company. p. Plate 30. OCLC 575541610. Retrieved 16 June 2013. A Riffian from the coastal village of Ajdir, in the tribe of Beni Uriaghel. In pigment, in measurements, and morphologically this Riffian is as perfect a Nordic as one could find in northern Europe. Nordics are ancient in Northern Africa as the Egyptian monuments of the Middle Kingdom, and perhaps older. They survive today mostly in the mountains of the Rif, Atlas mountains, Soussi of Souss valley, the Canary Islands and the Chleuhs. 
  2. ^ a b Coon, Carleton Stevens (1939). "The Mediterranean World". The Races of Europe. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 480–482. OCLC 575541610. Retrieved 16 June 2013.