From Morocco to Egypt, passing through Mauritania, Senegal, Mali and Niger, Berbers occupy and have always occupied a special place in the culture and in African and world history. Today, identity and cultural struggle in the face of governments that advocate a return to a patriotic nationalism and pan-Arabism Again, the Amazigh are not intimidated and continue to struggle to assert their identity and their historic Millennium roots in the Africa since the dawn of civilization.
To understand the roots of this proud people, here is an introduction to some notions, concepts and historical facts that are part of the Amazigh identity.
The Berbers, freemen
Originally Berber name, the barbarian term from the Latin barbarus, itself derived from the ancient Greek and means βάρβαρος Bárbaros (“foreign”). The Berbers does not mean by this term, and instead prefer the name Imazighen (Imaziγen), plural of Amazigh. Anthropologists do not precisely know the etymology of this term, but several versions are available: Amazigh would have the sense of“free man” or “rebel”.
The Berber language cousin of former Egyptian
At the time of colonization, some ethnologists and anthropologists have made fans simplistic and sometimes even fanciful comparisons with languages like Indo-European, Celtic or even Amerindian languages and Greek. But it was the French linguist Marcel Cohen, a specialist in Oriental languages, which terminates these hypotheses by integrating the language in the family of Afroasiatic languages that includes, in addition to the Semitic, Egyptian and Cushitic.
Today, there are about thirty varieties of Berber languages or “Tamazight”, including the Chaoui, the undersigned, the Rif, the Kabyle, the Chenoui the Mozabite, Tamasheq, the nafoussi … and it is estimated their speakers to over 45 million worldwide.
The Berbers, as old as the pharaohs
The Berbers are known from Pharaonic antiquity under the names of Lebu, Tehenu, Temehu or Meshwesh. They formed tribes, but also the ancestral realms as Numidia with his Gaia kings, Syphax, Massinissa, Juba I and Juba II. It was they who were also behind the creation of ancient Libya, and the kings of XXII and XXIII Egyptian dynasties were also Berber.
The Berbers of the desert
The Berber expansion was evidenced through the Maghreb, Egypt, and also some African countries south of the Sahara. The oldest tribes have formed in this desert region the family of Capsians, the most recent being that of the tribes “blue men of the desert” or Tuaregs.
The great dynasties of the Maghreb
The Almoravids and Almohads, two great dynasties that have dominated North Africa and Spain, are from groups Berber tribes converted to Islam. These two dynasties will greatly change the political landscape of the region with major implications for Europe and the Middle East.