Alexandra Boulat

Among the Berbers


Isolated in the Morocco’s High Atlas range, the mountain Berbers take pride in holding on to a traditional culture now largely lost to their urban kin. But life is still a hard climb in these rugged hills.

Numbering some 25 million in North Africa, they are ethnically distinct tribal people who inhabited these mountains and deserts thousands of years before the Arab conquest brought Islam here in the seventh century A.D.
In the century after the conquest many Berbers were driven from the plains to the high country, where they sought arable land, grass for their livestock, and, above all, freedom.

After the independence, Morocco’s Arab –controlled government adopted a hands-off policy in the mountains. In the cities, the Berbers struggle for cultural recognition.. But many Morocco’s Berbers live far form any urban center, high up in the mountains, where drought, poverty, and hunger often prevail. Isolated in the highlands, the Berbères in the Hight Atlas, managed to preserve their identity, their language, and, as was becoming clear, their independence.