Map of Jbala's land in Northern Morocco
|(approximately 1 million)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Northern Morocco, mostly concentrated in the North-West Morocco and Rif Mountains|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Jebala (Arabic: جبالة, translit. Jbala), is a group of Arab mountain people, which inhabit North-West Morocco. The jebala people inhabit the plains from the city of Targuist to the west, in contrast with the Riff people inhabiting the plains from Targuist to the east. The North-West of Morocco include cities such as Tanger (Tingis), Tetouan, Chefchaouen, and Asilah.
The word Jbala comes from Arabic (Arabic: جبالةJbel) which means mountain. Thus Jbala means mountain people. A man or boy is called a Jebli while a woman or a girl is called a Jebliya.
The Jebala speak an Arabic Hassani-dialect influenced by Berbers and Andalucians of Northern Morocco and Al-Andalus and the fact that their land lies on the route between these places. The Jebala people should not be confused with the Berbers inhabiting Riffian of Atlas people. They are different from them based on history, ethnicity and linguistically. The inhabitants of the North are divided in two broad traditional ethnolinguistic categories, the Arabic-speaking jebala in the west which trace their maleline to dynasties and tribes such as the Idrisid dynasty and the Maqil tribe. In the East you have the Tarifit-speaking Riffians, with the dividing line and watershed in Targuist. Before the arrival of the Arabian Banu Hilal and Banu Sulaym tribes in the 12th century, the Jebala country was the only rural region where non-bedouinic Arabic was spoken, and it still remains the only significant rural region where a non-bedouin Arabic dialect is spoken. Most of the Jebala people are centered in North-West Morocco and the Southern Riff Mountains (Fes-Meknes district), compared to the Berbers which are most centered in the Central and Eastern regions of the Riff Mountains. Next to the Arabian Jebala people, the area is also inhabited by Sephardi Jews and native Jews. Since they were not accepted in the other regions in the mountains, these classes were only found in the Arab tribal lands of the plains to the North-West of the Mountains. Some Jewish people today still live in cities like Tanger and Chefchaouen.
Very little is known about the prehistory of the region, but the history of the Jebala people seems to be well documented since early Islamic times. The early Islamic history of the Riff, through the Arabian Salihid dynasty of the Nakur, whose members were from the Yemenite tribe Himyar, and which lasted from pre-Idrisid until Almoravid times with the fall of the Madinat Al-Nakur (710-1108 CE). This part of the history seems to be well documented, but when the berberian Almoravid started ruling, the history of the Riff is almost total blank. The usual tradition is that almost every existing social group in the Riff mountains, whether Arabian or Berberian in origin, originated from somewhere else, not too far away from the country.
The Jebala speak a non-hilalian Arabic dialect, hich is influenced by the Spanish language due to proximity to Spain which also controlled areas of the region during the protectorate era (1912-1956) and has a Berber substratum.
The traditional clothing for women includes shawls called "mendils" made from cotton or wool. These rectangular shawls are often woven in stripes of white and red in the region. They are wrapped around the waist to form skirts. They are also used as shawls and securing holding babies or goods on the back or front of the body.
The traditional man's outer garment is the djellaba, a one piece cotton or woolen cloak with a pointed hood. In the Jebela region the wool is usually un-dyed so dark brown and off-white colours are common. White djellabas are worn for religious festivals.
The Jelaba favour pointed toed leather slippers. Natural light brown, yellow and white are the most common colours. Reed hats are another traditional feature of Jebala dress for both men and women. Women's hats are often adorned with woven woollen tassels and roping of black, white and red in variations.
Economical and cultural differences
The Jebala people have a different culture compared to the Riff Berberians. The Jebala people use oxen yoked by their horns for ploughing, opposed to the riffian use of cows yoked by their neck. For the roofing of their houses, the Jebala people use roofs made of corrugated iron and thatch, when the Riff Berberians use dried clay. The Jebala inhabited areas amongst the Atlantic coast, tanger and western Riff have more rainfall, thus using peaking roofs compared to the flat roofs used in the Riff with less rainfall. The Jebala have real villages with houses clustered together, while the Riffians traditionalle have dispersed homesteads each located at least 300 metres from the next.
Music and dancing are also very different. The Jebala play the "Ghayta" (a from of clarinet), and the tbul (drum), and dancing is generally performed by boys. The Riff musicians, who belong to a socially and occupational inferior class calling themselves "Imdhyazen", generally come from one tribe, the "Ait Touzin". They play the "Addjun" (tambourine) and the "zammar" (a kind of clarinet) with unmarried girls and old women dancing.
Jebala tribes of North-West Morocco
- Beni Anjera
- Beni Arros
- Beni Hassan
- Sless (Arabic:بني سلس): The Sless or "slasa" is an Arabian tribe which originated in Andalusia in Spain. They fled to Morocco during the reconquesta or Spanish inquisition. They first installed themselves in the Sale region in West-Morocco, hence the name of Sless. Then their leader chose to move to the Taounate region
- Beni Sahel
- Beni Musaur
- Beni Khlout
- Beni Hauz
- Beni Was Ras
References and notes
- Joseph Jacobs, Alfred Trübner Nutt, Arthur Robinson Wright, William Crooke Folklore Society, 1969, Volume 16.
- Actas Del Segundo Congreso Árabe Marroquí: Estudio, Enseñanza Y Apredizaje. Francisco Moscoso García, Luis Miguel Pérez Cañada, Nadi Hamdi Nouaouri. 2007. Universidad de Cadiz.
- (in French) S. Levy, EDNA n°1 (1996), Reperes pour une histoire linguistique du Maroc, pp.127-137
- Tribe and Society in Rural Morocco Door David M. Hart
- Diedrich Westermann, Edwin William Smith, Cyril Daryll Forde Oxford University Press, 1939.