The Berbers are a people ethnically indigenous to North Africa west of the Nile Valley. The Berber’s rich cultural history dates back to prehistoric times, over 4000 years ago! Their long recorded influence affected commerce by establishing trading routes between the West African and the Sub-Saharan region where they transported goods from beyond the Sahara desert to the Northern Moroccan cities. Indeed, the Berber identity is usually wider than language, craft and ethnicity; it encompasses the entire history and geography of North Africa and Morocco.
Today, it is still possible to still find many traditional Berber settlements in the mountains of Morocco. Although the Berber people do not live exclusively in rural settlements, these communities offer an interesting insight into the Berber tradition and history. So, when we were invited to visit a traditional Berber Village during our excursion to the village of Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains, we just could not pass on the opportunity.
It had taken us around an hour to reach the village from Marrakech, but the two were worlds apart. The village we had arrived at stood as a cluster of pisé homes carved into the hillside, set to the backdrop of the majestic Atlas Mountains. The Berbers call the Atlas range idraren draren, “The Mountains of Mountains”, and it is easy to see why. The Atlas Mountains stood tall as an unmoving monument, towering over dozens of small Berber communities. The scene was marked by a prevailing silence and an overwhelming stillness; two luxuries rarely found in the vibrant medina of Marrakech.
As we ascended up the narrow pathway lined with clay houses, our tread was delicate as if not to disturb the ambience of scene. That is not to say that we were not or did not feel welcome; instead, our silence was partially a feeling of awe and amazement, and partially an attempt to witness the everyday Berber life unnoticed, so to capture a glimpse of the local community in a way that was as pure as possible. Indeed, the Berber people are renowned for being their hospitality and we were invited into a small home and offered to share a glass of famous Moroccan mint tea. After, we were given a tour of the settlement and had an opportunity to ask our hosts any questions about Berber life. We only visited the village for around 20 minutes, but this experience will stay with us for a lot longer.
When you visit the Souks of Marrakech, you will find many examples of Berber craftsmanship from the stunning silver Tuareg and Amazigh jewellery to handmade Berber rugs. However, if you want to learn more about the authentic Berber way of life, we highly recommend a trip to a traditional Berber village as part of an excursion to Imlil in the High Atlas Mountains.
Our experienced Riad staff are on hand to organise any trips or excursions you wish to take. Our luxury Riads act as the perfect base to explore the Marrakech medina, the Atlas Mountains (including Imlil and the Berber Villages) and beyond.
Start in a Caravanserai ( a camel motel!) recently restored using UNESCO funding (Marrakech is a UNESCO world heritage site), pass by the local bakery (sample fresh bread if you wish), walk on into the souks, see the clever slatted roof above (Berber air conditioning!), pass the slipper sellers, see crafts men at work making musical instruments, peep in the shops selling expert lemon wood marketry, and on to the dyers souk.