Berbers celebrate Amazigh New Year

Berbers celebrate Amazigh New Year

The “Arabisation” of Morocco has led to discrimination and has marginalised their people.


They blame Arabisation for the high illiteracy rate in Morocco. More than half of its citizens cannot read because Berber children often drop out when confronted with teachers who speak only Arabic.

Monday marks first day of year 2964 for pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa.

Morocco’s Berbers, who several years ago won official recognition for their ancient Amazigh language in a new constitution, are also pushing for January 13 to be made a public holiday.

“We want the Amazigh New Year to be considered a public holiday, following the example of other calendars,” activist Meriem Demnati said.

Ahmed Assid, an academic and activist, said the traditional Berber New Year celebration had developed into a political cause.

“If the first of [the Islamic month of] Moharram is a holiday in Morocco, and the first day of the Christian calendar is a holiday, why shouldn’t the first day of the Amazigh New Year be also?” he asked.


Berbers, who are now spread across Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia, were the original inhabitants of North Africa before the 7th century Arab invasion, and they make up a fifth of Algeria’s 33 million people. The largest numbers of Berbers are believed to be in Morocco.

Berbers call themselves “imazighen,” or free men, and their resentment of the Arab-dominated central government means they have long agitated, sometimes violently, for autonomy.

Who was the most important Berber in history?


Tariq ibn Ziyad (died 720), known in Spanish history and legend as Taric el Tuerto (Taric the one-eyed), was a Berber Muslim and Umayyad general who led the conquest of Visigothic Hispania in 711. He is considered to be one of the most important military commanders in Spanish history. He was initially the deputy of Musa ibn Nusair in North Africa, and was sent by his superior to launch the first thrust of an invasion of the Iberian peninsula. Some claim that he was invited to intervene by the heirs of the Visigothic King, Wittiza, in the Visigothic civil war.

On April 29, 711, the armies of Tariq landed at Gibraltar (the name Gibraltar is derived from the Arabic name Jabal Tariq, which means mountain of Tariq, or the more obvious Gibr Al-Tariq, meaning rock of Tariq). Upon landing, Tariq is said to have burned his ships then made the following speech, well known in the Muslim world, to his soldiers:

O People ! There is nowhere to run away! The sea is behind you, and the enemy in front of you: There is nothing for you, by God, except only sincerity and patience. (as recounted by al-Maqqari).

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