The Indigenous Berbers of Africa – By Natural Mystics

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Indigenous Berber, the Blue men, with the eponymous blue cloth veil

One of the most misrepresent people in North Africa are the indigenous Berber people. These beautiful women are not shown on mainstream television, movies and rarely in print. These are the descendants of the ancient Berbers that the ancient Romans spoke of and wrote about.

The original indigenous Berbers were the North African ancestors of the present day dark-brown peoples of the Sahara and the Sahel, mainly those called Fulani, Tugareg, Zenagha of Southern Morocco, Kunta and Tebbu of the Sahel countries, as well as other dark-brown arabs now living in Mauretania and throughout the Sahel, including the Trarza of Mauretania and Senegal, the Mogharba as well as dozens of other Sudanese tribes, the Chaamba of Chad and Algeria.” The Westerners have chosen to concentrate on the most recent world of the Arab and Berber-speaking peoples and present it as if it is a world that has always been. “It is like comparing the Aztecs of five hundred years ago with the ethnic mix of America today,” wrote Reynolds. “The story of when North Africa was Moorish and Arabia, the land of Saracens, has yet to be told.”

– Dana Reynolds, Anthropologist

Anthropologist, Dana Reynolds traced the African roots of the original North African peoples through a dozen Greek and Byzantine (neo-Roman writers) from the first to the sixth century A.D. “They describe the Berber population of Northern Africa as dark-skinned [modern Europeans call dark brown skin color, as black-skinned] and woolly-haired.” Among these writers who wrote about the Berbers were Martial, Silius Italicus, Corippus and Procopius.

Saint Augustine was a dark-skinned Berber and many of the later Roman emperors would have trouble getting citizenship in some of today’s European states.

– Professor Mikuláš Lobkowicz, the former rector of the Munich university and current director of the Institute of Central and East European Studies in Eichstätt.

There are those who say that the Berber is part of the African story of Ham, from the land of Ber, the son of biblical figure Ham.

The original inhabitants of Ireland before the Celts invaded were Berber people who stretch all the way from Saharan Africa to Western Ireland. In North Africa they are known as Berbers, the original people before the Arab invasion of North Africa, they were known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as “barbarians,” the Tuaregs of Nigeria, Niger, Chad, etc. are a Berber people.

[Editors note: the Kanuris of North-Eastern Nigeria are known as the Iberi-beris. They are Berbers originally from Fezzan Libya]

In Spain and Portugal they were known as “Iberians,” which is the name of the Peninsula. In Ireland the Berbers are known as “Hibernians.” The Celts and later invaders pushed them back to the West of Ireland, where you most commonly see the “black Irish” with black hair and brown eyes. The most popular recreational organization of Irish Americans is the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH).

Modern Berber family having a traditional meal

The images that are shown in mainstream television, movies and in print are of the lighter skinned people that are also referred as Berber. Modern north Africa has changed a great deal, from waves of invasions such as the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Germanic tribes, Arabs, Turks and the French have led to the amalgamation in the region. The role of literally millions of enslaved Indo-Europeans and concubinage in the creation of admixed populations in cities like Tunis, Tripoli, Fez, Sale and Algiers are well documented. This is the formation of populations in north Africa today. These now lighter skinned people do not call themselves African. In fact, the term “African” is a very demonized term to many, more than likely because of the modern European invasion into Africa, Europeans had to justify their behavior (some still do), and the term African is the object of ridicule and humiliation. The term Berber is now a regional word to apply to these people that now share many common cultural ideas and customs. “

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32 thoughts on “The Indigenous Berbers of Africa – By Natural Mystics”

  1. In other to understand this issue of berber’s identity, we have to come back to african languages. which language had qualified and still qualifies a group of tribes as “barebari”(ber-ber: western pronunciation)? This language is Hausa, and tribes that are called with this name were and are today people that formed the ancient Kanem-Bornu empire (kanuri, Kanembu…)
    Herodotus said in his book II that Egyptian called people they couldn’t understand their language” bar-bar”. And that was the biginning of Hausa legend of a Bare-bari Prince (Prince of Bornu Kingdom) who came in DauRA (Territory of RA) and Married the Princess of that land and their 7 children founded the 7 seven legitimate hausa states. At that time they had called this Prince Baya-jida: he couldn’t understand our language, thus, as had said herodotus, the prince had been called “Barebari” and so also people of his kind.
    Notice that this Prince was said to freed people of DauRA from a Legendary terrifying snake which name is SAR-Ki .
    Sar-ki is the king title nowadays in Hausaland and the serpent was also an emblematic figure in ancient egypt.
    in the book of Sutherland and Malam Shaihua(a learned islamic scholar), 1913, The Beriberi were at that time in the Siwa region and the DauRA people were the Original black people of North Africa and they were called Northeners(Arewa). This Arewa refers today to Northen Nigeria but specially it refers originally to a hausa group “Ariwa”: Sons/ descendants of a Bornuan prince “Ary”. Arewa was a great kingdom now situated in Niger Republic.
    During war, this african Aryans never subdued. Griots praised them saying” Arywa zabin farin: Ariwa, the first choice”. In their list of kings there are such figures as : KabREN-KabRA, who was said to overcome all wild animals; KaREn-KabRA had produced the same deeds as Nimród;
    There are also King Manakare(may be pharaoh Menekhare) and King Nabiri(may be pharaoh Nabirau). King Nabiri had the power to change his enemies into “monkeys”: Why he was called Na-biri(The One of monkey).
    So, to conclude BERI-BERI (ber-bers) were and are considered a black race by Hausa people. They are our ancestors by the mean of the Bornuan Prince who fled his territory and land in DauRA.
    Readers must know that hausa people came by group im their present settlement. There DuRA and BiRAm Which were old cities states in Mesopotamia. Many ancient egyptians cities had their replication still now in hausaland: like Kom-bo, Dakhila, Sanam,Samna etc.

    1. Laouali Yaya,

      Good knowledge dropping. What you said about the language and Europeans providing their own pronunciation and spelling for the word Berber totally make sense. I was made to study Canadian history in school where I learned that when the English were not able to pronounce the names of the French explorers Médard des Groseilliers and Pierre Esprit Radisson they were called him Mr. Gooseberry and Mr. Radish, respectively. And even the name Jamaica is a corruption of Xaymaca so it comes as no surprise to me that Europeans would mispronounced or rename the places they have conquered.

      Now, these Europeans are rewriting history to state that Europe was invaded by whites from North Africa which makes no sense. So an advance civilization of whites were living in Africa and they then left Africa to bring civilization to their fellow white Europeans? And so there two sets of whites who rose out of the Caucasus mountains – one set left for Europe while the other set went to Africa where they developed arts, philosophies, mathematics, designed and built elaborate structures, systems of writing, universities, religion, war strategies (i.e. Hannibal and his father), built elaborate bath houses, understood the importance of proper hygiene, and just great civilizations in general. Meanwhile, the ones who went to Europe were majority illiterate (including their kings and queens), pissing and shitting where they slept, having sexual relations with their animals (some still do to this day), not taking a bath more than once per year (some still to this day take a bath very infrequently), carrying around flowers or wearing perfumes to mass their stench, with even their kings and queens living in castles that look like barns, living unsanitary and does not practice proper hygiene. This is the same people who had lead you to believe that a “king of kings,” “lord of lords,” Saviour Jesus Christ was born in a barn in Africa because it is very fitting with the reality of Europe at that time, if he would have existed. Since there own kings were living in barn like castles, they would not find it disgraceful that their god was birthed in barn amongst animals. Think people, think and pick sense out of nonsense. Africans are not going to allow a woman to give birth amongst animals knowing the types of germs animals carry. Even now, most black people do not sleep with their dogs. In the Caribbean, dogs do not sleep in the home. Thus, they would not be sleeping in the bed of humans, nor would they be allowed to lick faces and lick off the same plate humans eat from.

      Before the Europeans came to Africa and destroyed their civilizations, Africans has elaborately built homes, they build pyramids – not only in Egypt but pyramids can be found all over Africa. Europeans focus their attention on North Africa because a large concentration of the population have intermingled with white invaders. Thus, to bolster their claim of a white North Africa, they do not want you to know that every where black people touched they built pyramids, other fancy structures and had a civilization which they didn’t have to steal from anyone.

    2. The term “Berber” derived from the word “Barbarian”.
      People speaking a language different from greek and roman were considered barbarians.
      This term is used mainly by europeans.
      The true and original name for north-african is “Amazigh”, plurial “Imazighen”.

  2. @ Natural mystic,
    What is surprising, these todays berbers never imagine that they are using a lot of words and names from Hausa language.
    A tunisian can utter by moquery this word to black girls saying ” Hwarra! : the White!”- Hwarra is a hausa word meaning white.
    The battle field on which Hannibal Barka(Hambali Barka) faced Scipion the African was named “Zama Regia : Be a well! in hausa” or the other transcription: Zaman Regia: “settlement besides a well” in hausa. It is said that till today, there is a well which water contains some vertues.
    Amaria is where a new married girl is carried on- Amaria is a new married girl in hausa.
    The name Zaki, Zahi(Zahi Hausa, pardon Zahi Hawas), Arziki, Arewa(Arewa caftans) , Qsar(Kassa: territory or soil in hausa), the name of a maroccan’s funk group.” Hausa El Wada” etc.
    So now ask ourselves why this cultural mingling? Did hausa people conquer once a time this part of Africa ? Or, it is the remeaning of it’s ancient civilisation.

    By culture, hausa bears quite the civilisations of ancient nations like Greece, Rome, Mesopotamia, Iberia, ancient egypt by sports practice like ancient wrestling, boxing(using ropes as gloves and bare-handed), Torero(tauromachie): this sport is still practiced among hausa butchers during feasts like in some area of spain and portugal.
    My question is how this can be possible? Does this mean that those different people had came among hausa and taught them those games? or these africans had conquered the world probably during Sesostris I and taught other people these sports?

    1. I find all the various comments and information fascinating! One thing that I find in common with various ancient African(Amazigh, Ethiopians, Egyptians) and European( ancient greeks/Romans)civilisations, is that they were the areas on those continents closest to the Middle Eastern civilisations.

      When I speak of civilisations I am not referring to just ethnic groups that were powerful or ruled vast stretches, but I am speaking of those civilisations that had written languages, forms of advanced mathematics in written numbers, knowledge of irrigation, wind power, and advanced architecture.

      We see how Egypt, Ethiopia, Amazigh(Berbers) near the coasts of northern Africa, Greece, Macedonia, Malta were the most advanced African and European ancient civilisations that shared more in terms of culture, advancement and trade with the Phoenicians (from modern day Lebanon and Syrian coast), Assyrians (modern day Iraq and parts of Syria, Iran and Turkey), and other Semitic peoples(ancient Jewish and Arab communities).

      Ethiopia’s Amharic language is largely Semitic,the north African Tamazigh alphabet was based on Phoenician(Semitic)alphabet, the Greek alphabet was based on the Phoenician(Semitic) alphabet. The Latin alphabet was based on the Greek alphabet which was adapted from Phoenician. And the Assyrians and Chaldeans of modern day Iraq, Syria, etc.. spoke Aramaic which was another Semitic variation of Phoenician along with ancient Hebrew(Moabitic/ Paleo Hebrew) and South Arabian and Nabatean(the two last being predecessors of Arabic dialects today). In turn the Semitic peoples were also influenced by hieroglyphics from Kemet(ancient Egypt).

      All these cultures from the middle east, north and eastern Africa and Mediterranean Europe near the middle east were the most advanced civilisations in their respective continents and had more in common with each other advancement wise and in commerce than they did with remote peoples in their own continents.

      Phoenicians, Amazigh, Greeks, Assyrians, Ethiopians and Egyptians traded with each other and wrote of each others cultures more than they did with the rest of the world.

  3. Fascinating reading Good People! As Theophilus Obenga says, we Africans are the only ones who continue to let others tell our story and the results can only be bizarre.

    “Polite discourse” will shunt aside or ignore what you guys are saying but the truth cannot be vaporized from being because the deeds done by our Black ancestors in the whole expanse of north Africa lies in the memory of the universe, which is you and me.

    Numerous nations in Africa have in their oral history a link with the North -eg Kmt/misr.

    So when I catch Omar Sharrif (white arab Egyptian movie superstar) brazenly bragging about “his ancestors’ majestic splendour (BLACK KMT CIVILIZATION) in yet another silly propaganda documentary I laugh out loud through the roof of this mutha!

    Then again-its sad because when African children watch such anti-Black Civilization (or denial to be charitable) propaganda and believe that the present majority Egyptian population are the same stock who built pyramids, we find ourselves with that much extra work to CLEAN UP MINDS

    The shamelessness of it is breathtaking. And the irony-some muslim fanatics want to bring the pyramids down as they are symbols of “haram” paganism. Just imagine it.


  4. waouh !!!! Great web site! It is one of the best African site i have ever known….

    From your article on Dirty Harry to this …I can say just two word : Thank you

  5. Hello,

    I learned so much from this website which now rose many questions in my head. Many people say that North Africa was always white and that’s something I personally never could believe. I’m personally white with brown eyes and brown hair, Central Atlas berber from my father’s side. The females in our family are white and light haired while the men usually have olive or white skin but with asian eyes a little. My mother is no berber and she says that she’s arab along with her family, yet all our family from my mother’s side are red haired, blue eyed or brown eyed but with blond hair. Eventhough I’m personally white with asian looking eyes a little bit, I’ve looked at myself in the mirror many times to wonder why is it that I have Tuareg features hiding under white skin. Were the berbers of Africa (including Kabyle, Riffians, Central etc etc) black in origin?

  6. Hi Kas – I don’t know what you mean by Tuareg features, but in any case, here is an answer to your query.

    “D. W. Reynolds-Marniche 2013

    Addendum to “The African Heritage and Ethnohistory of the Moors” published 1991 in Golden Age of the Moor

    The article in the Journal of African Civilization was written in order to illustrate some of the original African populations comprising the ancient Berber peoples and Mauri of Africa. Since that period much more has been discovered concerning the early Afro-Asiatic speakers and other Africans composing the early and major tribes of Berbers, and about the various black African groups that played a major role in the peopling of Muslim Spain.
    There are certain errors in the article, though not significant enough to change the major premise that the original Moors were in fact originally a confederation of black Africans called Berbers, no longer numerous in the region of coastal North Africa. It is such populations that at one time made up the bulk of the Moors in Spain.
    The earliest historians on the North African and Saharan people that came to be known as “Berbers” assumed the latter had come at some very early period of time from the east to the Maghreb. It was discussed in the article how early historians, such as the 1st century Josephus, implied that “Gaetulians” and other Saharans, called Numidians and Berbers, were affiliated with incense trading peoples in the Eritrean region. Strabo, in his geography, asserted earlier historians claimed a group of “Ethiopian” people took over the northern coasts of north Africa, the Atlas and other parts of the Mediterranean at a remote period.* Greek, Roman and later authors of the Byzantine period not infrequently mentioned the belief that peoples in ancient Maghreb, such as the Mauri, Numidians and Pharusii, had arrived from further east. Similar suggestions were made in medieval Arabic and European Jewish commentaries.
    As Ramzi Rouighi has stated, “…the earliest Arabic sources do not support the idea of the northwest African origin of the Berbers. That idea, one must therefore believe, is of later origin” (Rouighi, R., 2010, p. 98 and 99)
    In fact, most modern populations in northern Africa that speak Berber dialects are neither homogeneous biologically or culturally, and few can be considered representative of the Berber populations observed by ancient Byzantine and Arab writers. In recent times such groups designated as “Berber” or “Amazigh”’ through linguistics and/or political affiliation (Willis, M., 2008, pp. 228 –239) have come to be confounded with ancient and medieval groups, such as “Mezikes”, who in texts of antiquity have usually been designated “Ethiopians” (Carocopino, 1940, p. 391-393; Gsell, 1927, p. 2). As mentioned above, more ancient Berber peoples were thought to have shared biological and cultural origins and ties to populations of the east, including ancient “India” – the then common name of the Red Sea region between the Yemen and Nubia – still affiliated with both Afro-Asiatic, or Cushitic, Chadic and Ethio-Semitic, and Nilo-Saharan speakers.
    The name “Berber,” in documents of the Greco-Roman era and as late as the medieval period, appears to have been utilized for populations of notably “Ethiopic” or “Sudanic” appearance of Sahelian, and to some extent, sub-Saharan affiliation, once predominant along the North African coasts. This most likely explains the defining of the word “mauri” or “moor” and its variants in early Latin and other etymological treatises as “nigri” or black (Barthelemy, A., 1987, p. 8; Conant, J., 2012, p. 269). Thus, it should not be surprising to find that Berber populations in the earliest documenting of their appearance were invariably described as black or near black in countenance. Among these populations can be included the Mazikes, Ifuraces, Laguatan, Pharusii, Ketama, Meghrawa, Zenata, Jarawa, Zaghawa or Zawagha, Masmuda, Sanhaja, Lamtuna, Gezula, Makkorenes, among others (Reynolds-Marniche, 2014).
    Most regions of the northern Maghreb in fact have seen a continuous flow of external ethnic elements from Europe and the Levant as evidenced by historical documentation, early and current archeological, forensic and genetic studies (Reynolds-Marniche, 2014).
    The period after the 15th century, which saw a reorientation of the slave imports from regions of western and Slavic Europe toward sub-Saharan African regions and movement of many tens of thousands of Andalusians into northern Africa seems to have been a turning point in Europe’s application of the term “Moor”. The term “Berber” however remained a word in use by the Portuguese and by European Americans for peoples of sub-Saharan affinity.
    The common and most authentic use of the term “Berber” appears in Arab and Portuguese texts for groups who still refer to themselves as Beri Berberi or Baribra, now located mainly south of Sahara in the Sahel and the Sudan, but who can be shown to be ethnically affiliated with peoples once inhabiting regions in North Africa along the coast.
    An example of this is seen in how the designation “al-Barabir” and “Barabra” was attached to the Djanawa or Soninke of Dar Tichitt in early Arab documents and Portuguese chronicles (Lewicki, T. 1988, p. 313). The latter have also been commonly referred to in Arabic sources as Wangara, Garawan, Jarawa or Wakore, and were once identical with the Jerma, Djerma or Zarma Songhai. The ethnonym Djanawa which came to mean “blacks”, was originally connected to Djana or Chana, a personnage whom Tadeusz Lewicki notes as the traditional ancestor of the Zanata in an encyclopaedic entry on the Matmata (Lewicki, 1989, p. 842).
    The name Songhai in turn is known to be connected to that of the Zaghai and Zaghawa.
    In the 16th century, Luis Marmol Carvajal of Granada appears to have mentioned these Zaghai or Zaghawa in his commentary on the “Azuagos”. He identifies them as “Moors” who have long lived in hills and in caves, and wrote that African authors asserted they were descendants of the founders of Carthage.

    ‘There was a noted people called Azuagos who are now scattered up and down the provinces of Barbary and Numidia, and most of whom are shepherds …They live upon mountains and hills and nestle in holes and chinks’ (William R. Wilde, 1840, p. 439).

    According to one scholar on the Berbers, the Zaghawa were acknowledged as a clan belonging to the Zanata Berbers. He notes “the predominant confederations of kabilas being those of the Hawwara, Luwata, Nafusa, and Zaghawa” (Mones, 1988, p. 288).
    One of the places of habitation of these “Zouagha” was the region of Koukou in Grand Kabylia (Lanfray, 1978, p. 92), a name not unexpectedly, reminiscent of the names “Kaukau” or “Kauga” for the modern town of Gau or Gao established on the Niger in Mali by the 8th century, and of other towns named Kuka, Kukia, and Kucu, found among peoples named Zaghawa, Zaghay, or Isawaghen (Songhai) further south in “the Sudan”.
    Among the other peoples that still consider themselves “Beriberi” are the Kanem-Kanuri and Hausa who appear to have been connected to Zaghay or Zaghai peoples further west called Songhai.
    Since a number of West African peoples brought to America consisted of the latter, it is not surprising that we find the term Berber in use for black Africans in the United States brought to America as slaves. Chapter I, Section 4 of a legal document published in 1848 and named, The Negro Law of South Carolina states:

    The term Negro is confined to slave Africans (the ancient Berbers) and their descendants. It does not embrace the free inhabitants of Africa such as the Egyptians Moors or the negro Asiatics such as the Lascars.

    Equally certain is the fact that before the 15th century the Berbers were consistently grouped among the “black African” populations by historians. The 14th century Kurd, Ibn Kathir, in Sura 35 of his Tasfir, refers to the Berbers, along with the “Timtimis” (or “Demdems”, a certain people of Central Africa thought to have been cannibalistic) and Ethiopians (Nubians), as “very black”. The Damascene commentator, Abu Shama (13th c.) not long before, refers to the Masmuda Berbers of the plains of northern Morocco as “blacks” (Lewis, B. 1974, p.217) in his Kitab al Ravdatayn. Ibn Butlan, a Byzantine “Arab” physician from Iraq, and the Persian Nasr i Khusrau in the 12th and 11th centuries respectively described Berbers similarly as “blacks Africans”. Of the Masmuda or Masamida Berbers, Yaacov Lev, specialist on the Fatimid dynasty has noted that Khusrau “says that they were blacks and characterized them as infantry who used lances and swords”. They comprised 20,000 of the Fatimid troops (Lev, Y., p. 342).
    Syrian, Al Dimashqi (d. 14th c.), the Andalusian-descended Ibn Khaldun of Tunisia (d. 1406) as well as the Persian Ibn Qutayba (9th c.) all speak of the tradition of Berbers being “black” descendants of Canaanites and Ham as well (Hopkins and Levtzion, 2000, p. 213; Hall, B.S., 2013, p. 96).
    Ibn Butlan, in fact was fond of commenting on the attributes of females that had been brought into Iraq to serve as slave concubines. He writes of the Berber women whom he considered the ideal slave woman, “Their color is mostly black though some pale ones can be found among them. If you can find one whose mother is Kutama, whose father is of Sanhaja, and whose origin is Masmuda, then you will find her naturally inclined to obedience…” (Brozny, 2005, p. 303).
    These are the same Kutama settled in Kabylia with the Vandals, among others, that laid the foundations for the Fatimid Caliphate. They are considered the Ucutamani, (Gazeau, V. Baudin, P., Mod’ran, Y., 2008, p. 113), and are probably the Muctunia in the Tripolitania desert of earlier records.
    As Ibn Butlan also describes the Beja women of Nubia as “golden colored” (Brozyna, p. 304), we can be certain what his description of “black” for the Berber women.
    The 6th century Isidore was just one of several known writers of his time and before who spoke in colorful terms in reference to the “white” Gauls who he contrasts to the Moors or Mauri who were “black as night” (Barney, S. A., 2007, p. 386). As one specialist in late antiquity writes: “Indeed, by the time Isidore of Seville came to write his Etymologies, the word Maurus or ‘Moor’ had become an adjective in Latin, ‘for the Greeks call “black” mauron’. In Isidore’s day, Moors were black by definition” (Conant, J., 2012, p. 269).
    Further west, the Byzantine poet Corippus wrote about inhabitants of Byzacena in Tunisia south of Carthage that were part of the confederation under the Berber leader Antalas fighting against the Byzantines. On several occasions Corrippus “refers to Moors both individually and collectively as being ‘black’ or ‘dark’ (Niger), and even goes so far as to liken one Moorish woman and her children to a raven and its chicks” (Conant, 2012, p. 269). (Moorish women were paraded through the streets of Carthage by the Byzantines.)
    The chief Antalas had previously battled the Germanic Vandals who the Byzantine author, Procopius, said had settled by the tens of thousands in the area of northern Algeria, including Kabylia. In the 6th century, Procopius, aside from stating the Moors or Maurusioi were black-skinned, noted the following concerning the Vandals: “the number of the Vandals and Alans was said in former times, at least, to amount to no more than fifty thousand men. However, after that time by their natural increase among themselves and by associating other barbarians with them they came to be an exceedingly numerous people. But the names of the Alans and all the other barbarians, except the Mauretanii, were united in the name of Vandals.” (Procopius, History of the Wars Book III)
    The stronghold of the Vandals was in the region of Kabylia, which they shared with the Berbers of Ketama stock.. Their capital was Bejaia known as Saldae to the earlier Roman colonists there. After the Vandals, the Byzantines took over the region.
    These are a few of the peoples that came to share Little Kabylia with the Kutama who apparently had retained a characteristic Berber appearance even centuries later at the time Ibn Butlan spoke of them.
    Thus, it isn’t any wonder that in the European colonial period many observers were inclined to remark on the diverse appearance and ethnic character of Berbers of Kabylia. In the early colonial period one can find recognition of the admixture between populations that must have reflected the present demographics of North Africa. Early on, statements such as the following are made by colonial observers who wrote:

    we are disposed to take account also of the Germanic or Vandal element introduced at a later period, traces of which though not recognized by most authors, remain to the present time, since we not unfrequently [sic] meet Kabyles with blond or reddish hair, and eyes blue, or of a grayish green tinge (Perry, A., 1869, p. 272).

    Some descriptions seem to have diverged greatly from how later colonialists describe Berber inhabitants of the Algerian mountains. In the beginning, the occupants are frequently noted for their rather dark complexions. “The Berbers or Kabyles of Algerian territory”, according to a French observer, “are of middle stature; their complexion is brown and sometimes nearly black; hair brown and smooth, rarely blond”. (The name Kabylia means mountaineers) (Prichard, J., 1837, p. 28).
    This brand of commentary, however, became rarer as the decades passed. In time the idea that Berbers were white and at one time Christian became “central to scholarship in the colony”(Rice, L., 2008, p. 54). With the promotion of scientific raciology in western anthropology and rise of Aryanist ideology in Europe, the colonialist rhetoric changed to viewing the quintessential Berber as represented by very fair complexioned types presumed indigenous to North Africa, and at times recognized for Indo-European connections. This belief was perhaps bolstered by certain late representations of the “Libyans” that appeared in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings, although even archeologists of the time were convinced “blond Libyans” were “intrusive” foreigners (Bates, O., 1914, pp. 39-40). Some geneticists in modern times appear to have latched on to this perspective, however. (See forthcoming “Fear of Blackness”, Reynolds-Marniche, 2014, in “West Africa Review”.)
    More recently and interestingly, Berber specialist Gabriel Camps suggested a possible Vandal influence on jewelry and other Kabyle materials, while equally proclaiming ancient Berbers to be some indigenous remnant of a “Caucasoid” race of “proto-Mediterraneans” flourishing since pre-historic times (Camps, G., 1980, pp. 34-46 and 305).
    His notion of prehistoric Berbers, like Guiseppe Sergi’s anthropological “Mediterranean race” theory in general (Reynolds-Marniche, D., 1994), drastically impacted, or distorted the study of ancient North Africa and its peoples, more than most are willing to admit – diverting much scholarly focus toward baseless historical and genetic theories of Berber origins, aside from the forming of historical enigmas where they should be none.
    Another relatively neglected aspect of African ethnohistory south of the Sahara is the part of the Tuareg and other groups who made up the bulk of the Sanhaja (composed of Lamta, Lamtuna, Massufa, Sidrata), and “Gezula” or “Goddala” peoples. They, along with other populations comprised many of the “Moorish” clans known to have entered Spain in the Almoravid period. Modern Tuareg of Niger in particular are still called by their early name of “Lamtuna” or Auelimidden.
    According to Julia Clancy-Smith, the 13th century Ibn Abi Zar wrote:

    “The people of the Lamtuna were a people of the desert, religious and honest, who conquered an immense empire in Andalusia and in Maghreb… Their reign was free from lies, fraud and revolt, and they were cherished by all until the Mahdi, the Almohad, rose against them in the year 515” (Clancy-Smith, J. 2013, p. 73).

    The Almoravids had seized their empire as “religious zealots”, but in Spain their reign was one of peace and prosperity. It was one of their rulers that transformed Marrakesh into an imperial city later taken over by the “black-skinned” Masmuda in 1147, as were Oran and other large towns of the Maghreb.
    Aside from the Auelimidden (Lamta, Lamtuna), Massufa and Ifuren (Zanata) branches of the Tuareg. Many other African peoples were said to have been part of the African makeup of the Almoravids in Spain.
    Previous to the Almoravid period the Berber tribe of the Meghrawa were in power in the Maghreb, north Morocco and Algeria and parts of Spain. Ibn Khaldun makes them a group affiliated with both the Ifren and the Jarawa, and composed of the clans of Laghwat and the Righa, the former likely corresponding to the ancient Laguaten or Levathes “Mauri” of the Roman era (Bosworth, C.E., Van Donzel, E., Bernard, L., and Pellat,, C. 1985, p. 1174). The Jarawa or Jawara are said by Abdulwahid D. Taha to be a “huge” proportion of the Zanata Berbers in Spain (Taha, 1989, p. 24). Al- Dimashqi of the 11th century asserts the Maghrawa, to be a branch of “Sudan”, “son of Ham”(Hopkins & Levtzion, 2000, p. 212).
    Julien Desanges associated them with the ancient Maccourebi of Ptolemy in the same region, a “Moorish” peoples (Bosworth, C. E. et al, 1985, p. 1174).
    It is a rare English academic text, however, that mentions the evident connection between the modern Tuareg, or other Africans, with these early Almoravid ethnies. Many Tuareg and other Sahelian and Sudanic names appear to date back to at least the Byzantine era in North Africa, if not further, and yet in Western historical treatises of ancient peoples of “Mauritania” and “Libya”, apparent ancient links to the Tuareg and their unquestionably black cohorts are rarely mentioned.
    Perhaps, as a result of trying to find a non-black origin of the Berbers, it has not been recognized that many of the ethnic groups of Sudan are the same as pre-exilic “Moorish” peoples of North Africa. Zaghawa is Zawagha; Wangarawa traders of the south were the Jarawa of the Zanata; and the Djanawa for similar peoples are from the ancient Djana of Berber traditions, and so on.
    It is only recently that the Garamantes ** and other probably originally Berber-related peoples have been recognized as blacks once denigrated for their appearance, although some have tried to make the former primarily into a population mainly consisting of slaves.
    The Tuareg themselves have been wrongly assumed to have been aboriginal peoples of “evidently Caucasian” variety, or, in the unabashed rhetoric of colonialists, of a people “tall, bold, handsome, war-like, and predatory, ruling over the negroes with a rod of iron”. *** And, in fact the Tuareg today, do tend to be fairer in complexion than many other Sudanic peoples, but are more accurately seen as exemplary of a ancient “Ethiopic” population influenced mainly in the last several centuries by peoples of European and other “Eurasiatic” populations.
    Eastward in Libya, intermixture with Syrians and especially with the Ibadites from Iraq and Khorasan took place, and according to African manuscripts mentioned by H.R. Palmer, Tuareg mixed with “Turks” and “Tartars” who had settled Murzuk and other parts of Fezzan. But, an equally significant element contributing to their matrilineal dna was probably due to the slave trade – in this case, the predominant, fairly recent and historically-neglected, white one. As early as the Almoravid period, European slaves were brought into the Berber towns dominated by Tuareg and other Berbers once noted as blacks.
    The slave pens of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as at Meknes, Tripoli and other places of two and three centuries ago were in fact described in some texts as “crowded” with Europeans, i.e. “Christian slaves”, and it appears these pens were not infrequently raided by Tuareg and other Berbers – the latter carrying their prey back into the mountains, as well as into the deserts and deep into the interior of Africa.
    Robert Brown in his commentary on Leo Africanus’ works, has noted “many European races, including the Vandals under Genseric, the endless European slaves who, turning renegade, became absorbed into the population” in the northern parts of Berber Africa (Brown, R., 1896, p.203), but more recently, scholars like Robert Davis in the book, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, have written in more detail on the intermingling and absorption of northern peoples.

    “Neighboring mountain peoples, the Berbers and Tuaregs, appear to have occasionally attacked outlying farms and were happy to enslave anyone they found there, Moors, renegades, or slaves…things could turn much worse with these nomads, who often took them far into the interior ‘feeding them as little as possible…’ leaving them no hope of eventual escape and contact with fellow Europeans”(Davis, R.C., 2003, p. 87).

    The “Moors” of this period would largely have been descendants of Andalusians and other Islamicized peoples in North Africa who were not necessarily black or dark brown, like the Trarza or Tuareg (or Tuwarek). The Zanata Berbers, whose clans were in fact of Tuareg and Jarawa or Jawara origin (demonstrably the same as the Wangarawa further south), in fact, were the early Berber inhabitants of Meknes, Tlemcen, Sijilmasa, Tahart, Fez and other places. The descendants of Tuareg slavers and traders now presently in the Sahara and Sahel are undoubtedly partly the result of admixture with descendants of white slaves and mercenaries settled in such places, just as they are black slaves.
    There is certainly reason to believe that the Tuareg could have been the great–statured “Ethiopians” that Strabo claimed were by tradition said to have been settled along the coasts of North Africa and in the Atlas. In Arab sources the Zanata ancestors are in fact said to be the Philistine giant “Goliath”, son of “Daris”, i.e. the Greek Atlas, from whom they still claim descent in the colonial period (Na’imi, M., 2004, p. 210, fn. 31). As late as the 15th century Genoan traveller Malfante also refers to them as Philistines, though they, probably much like the Fulani were by this time noticeably fairer than the blacks they dominated in the land of the Gezula (Gaitules?).
    Furthermore, some of the Tuareg descendants are still called by the Zenata clan name of Ifuren or Kel Feruan/Ferouan in Mali and other places where they remain for the most part dark brown in complexion as they were in Arabic sources. These Zanata again are the same people that Ibn Khaldun in the 14th century considered the largest of the Berber confederations – a people he says were in popular tradition of his time black due to “a curse” (Smith, 2003, p. 482).
    Thus, whatever the Tuareg have become in appearance through the intervening period between the start of the Almoravid dynasty and today, they were most definitely a people described among the blacks, aside from being very tall, before the 15th century. Whatever the validity of the Tuaregs being of “Philistine” derivation, there is also little question early colonialists were struck by the great stature of many Tuareg men who towered over them (de Prorok, 2002, p. 41), and that many of Tuareg were, and remain, unusually tall in comparison with other groups around them.
    In Morocco meanwhile Andalusian Muslims were known to have settled in large numbers in the Riff region after being expelled from the Iberian peninsula. Some 300,000 had been expelled and/or sent to their deaths. Much of the Andalusian population were converts to Islam and some were Christians and Jews (Carr, 2009, Matthew, p. 278).
    Even before that time, during the period of Berber ascendancy in the Iberian peninsula, the Berbers along the coastal region of western Mauritania or Morocco were noted for their black complexions. “Moors” had in fact invaded the Iberian peninsula even in the pre-Islamic period, and were found in the mountainous Riff region across from Gibraltar by the period of the earliest Islamic invasions of Spain.
    An 8th century text in an Andalusian manuscript called the Latin Chronicle of 754 which tells of the encounter between Syrian “Arabs” and Berbers in the mountains of Tangiers in the region of Morocco’s Riff is also revealing. Its anonymous author wrote of the Syrians on Egyptian horses who were “crossing the territory of the Moors to attack Tangiers with the Swords. But the army of the Moors realizing this immediately burst forth from the mountains to the battle naked, girded only with loin-cloths covering their shameful parts. When they joined with each other on the Nava river, the Egyptian horses immediately recoiled in flight, as the Moors on their beautiful horses revealed their repulsive colour and gnashed their white teeth. Despairing they launched another attack, the Arab cavalry again instantly recoiling due to the color of the Moors skin” (Larsson, Goran, 2003, p. 71).
    The descriptions of Isidore of Seville in Spain, a little more than a century earlier then those events, as well as other descriptions between the 3rd and 8th centuries, again leave little doubt as to the appearance of the Berbers of that era who were to become the main stock of the Moors in Spain.
    Several hundred years later, the Masmuda chiefs in the Anti-Atlas mountains further south were to found the dynasty of the Almuwahhidun or “Almohads”, in fact around the same time the Syrian Abu Shama, Khusrau and other observers had spoken of the Masmuda as “blacks”.
    These unmodified Berbers of the Romans, and Arabs were doubtless some of forefathers of modern Berbers, that burst forth from the Tangiers mountains, whose “black as night” skins made even foreign battle-trained horses rear back in horror. It is fairly certain that the Berbers of that region in that period, as in the 10th century were of Masmuda stock mainly composed of the ethnic Ghumara (Park, T. K. and Boum, A., 2006, p. 240; Taha, A.D., 1989, p. 26), who are today rather much fairer in complexion..
    “Black Morocco” thus undoubtedly began with the original Berbers themselves – a people who in Morocco and other places in the ancient Mauretania were conceivably much darker at one time than the present Nilo-Saharan Haratin and Fulani – Niger-Congo speakers considered by some today to represent “black” Moroccans (Hamel, C., 2013, p. 277).

    *Strabo states in Book 1, Chapter 2:26 – “… Ephorus mentions still another ancient tradition, and it is not unreasonable to believe that Homer also had heard it. Ephorus says the Tartessians report that Ethiopians overran Libya as far as Dyris, and that some of them stayed in Dyris, while others occupied a great part of the sea-board” (1917, Loeb Classical Library Edition)

    **See Abstract by John Starks Jr. for “Was Black Beautiful in Vandal Africa?” chapter in G.K. Bhambra, D. Orrells, T. Roynon, ed. African Athena: New Agendas., 2011, Oxford University Press.

    ***Cited from “The American Magazine” Volume 5, page 478, published in 1878.


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    1. Great info!!!!! Knowing my people’s history gives a satisfaction I can’t explain. Two DNA tests confirmed I am a Berber with other ancestry. 🙂

  7. Just commenting on pic this does not resemble berbers this looks like African i have seen pics of Tuareg and there are many who dont look this way why completely different features?

    1. @ Husain
      the present and ancient Sultans of Ayar (Air ) Agadez in Niger Republic are and were blacks, like on this picture.
      Tuaregs are of many tribes, the Abzinawa are the more nobles and are not whites as you are expected.
      The Sultanate of Ayar was one of the principal Tuareg’s central political power since the middle age.
      Agadez was an important commercial center by then.

      Mr Husain, you don’t solve may previous questions about Haid Hausa in Yemen and Quleib El Haoussa in West Saudi Arabia. Where these place history linked with Hausa people?

      1. Yes, they were black, but that Tagelmust is that of a slave to the Tuareg, not a Tuareg. There are plenty of jet black Tuaregs that you could have selected, as they wear varying shades of blue. You don’t have to stretch and intentionally put a black face, just to make your case. Not to mention Tuareg features, and yes, they have distinctive features are quite stark, and handsome, not to rounded as in this picture.

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