|~5.1 million (14.2% of Morocco)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Morocco-Atlas Mountains, Sous Valley|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Shilha traditionally call themselves Shlḥi. This endonym is rendered as Chleuhs in French. The Shilha are also known as Shluh and Shlöh. Among Arabic speakers, Shluh serves as an appellation for Berbers generally, although Amazigh/Imazighin is the proper Berber self-name for Berbers as a whole.
The Shilha people live mainly in Morocco's southern Atlantic coast, the High Atlas Mountains, the Anti Atlas mountains, and the Sous Valley. They are of Berber origin, which along with the Shluh people, includes other ethnic subgroups such as the Tuareg, Rif, Kabyle, Shawia and Beraber. The Shilha people are a part of Morocco's Berber-speaking community, and the southernmost residing Berber population.
In antiquity, Berbers traded with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians in commercial entrepots and colonies along the northwestern littoral. They established the ancient kingdom of Mauretania, which fell under Roman rule in 33 CE, before eventually being reunited under Berber sovereignty. During the 7th century, the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate invaded the Berber and Byzantine strongholds in the Maghreb, seizing Carthage in 698 AD. Although the Umayyads nominally controlled Morocco over the following years, their rule was tenuous due to Berber resistance. The polity eventually collapsed and was taken over by the Abbasid dynasty. In 789 AD, with the approval of the locals, a former Umayyad courtier established the Idrisid dynasty. It lasted until 970 AD, as various petty states vied for control over the ensuing centuries. After 1053, Morocco was ruled by a succession of Muslim dynasties founded by Berber tribes. Among these were the Almoravid dynasty (1053-1147), the Almohad dynasty (1147-1275), and the Marinid dynasty (1213-1524). In 1668, a sharifan family from the east assumed control and established the incumbent Alawite dynasty.
Over this period, many Shilha moved to the Atlas Mountains to avoid Arab hegemony. The Berber groups that had not retreated to the highlands intermarried with the colonists. However, although the Shilha gradually adopted Islam, they and other Berbers in the mountains have held on to their traditional language, culture and religious customs to varying degrees. A small minority of the Shilha people are Christians and Jewish.
The French and Spanish colonial empires partitioned Morocco in 1904, and the southern part of the territory was declared a French protectorate in 1912. Arabization remained an official state policy under both the colonial and succeeding post-independence governments. With the spread of the Berber Spring to Shilha territory during the 1980s, the Shilha sought to reaffirm their Berber roots. This culminated with a proposal by Shilha nationalists in 2013 to establish an independent Sousse state within a greater Morocco federation.
The Shilha mainly live in Morocco's Atlas Mountains and Sous Valley. Traditionally, they are farmers who also keep herds. Some are semi-nomadic, growing crops during the season when water is available, and moving with their herds during the dry season.
The Shluh communities in the southwestern mountains of Morocco cooperated with each other in terms of providing reciprocal grazing rights as seasons changed, as well as during periods of war. These alliances were re-affirmed by annual festive gatherings, where one Shilha community would invite nearby and distant Shilha communities.
As of 2014, there were around 5 million Shilha speakers, constituting 14.1% of the Moroccan population.
The Shilha language differs considerably from certain Berber varieties, such as those spoken by the Tuareg.
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