The Berbers (or Imazighen) are the native inhabitants of North Africa, west of Egypt, especially contemporary Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. The ancestors of the Berbers lived around 2000 BC, in tribal relations in the northern Sahara, from Morocco and the Canary Islands in the West to western Egypt in the East. The traditional Berbers were nomads who lived from trade. For about 8000 years, the tribes began to merge, and so one nation emerged: the Berbers.
The Berbers do not call themselves ‘Berbers’. The word originates from the Greek word ‘barbaroi’, which means barbaric, but also means ‘those who can’t speak our language’. The name was used in ancient times by the Greeks to indicate the population of North Africa. The Berbers call themselves Amazigh (singular) or Imazighen (plural), which means ‘free people’. The Berbers can be distinguished in three main groups, each of these groups has its own region: Riffi, Tamazight and Soussi.
Because there are a lot of Berber tribes, the culture and traditions within the communities can vary widely. Traditionally, the men take care of the livestock and search for water and nutritious soil. The women take care of the family and make handcrafted things. For personal use, but also to sell on the souks (local markets). The Berber women are very skilled in making colourful tapestries (kilims), blankets and clothes. Using different types of wool, impressive patterns are created. The colours in
the carpets were painted naturally, using saffron, wild mint, pomegranate and henna
The Berbers are truly inspired by the spirit of trade, since they have been the transporters of the Sahara for centuries. They traveled extreme long distances to transport home-made products, such as jewelry, but also spices and textiles. The Berbers have evolved from shepherds and local craftsmen to real merchants. But they didn’t travel alone: they were always accompanied by their flock of camels, the only animal that’s suited for the extreme temperatures of the desert.
The Berbers have exceptional business insight, they recognized needs faster than others, and were the first to meet that demand. Their perseverance and willingness to cross the desert for the best possible deals, has delivered them five trans-Saharan trade routes, on which they have traded goods until the twentieth century. Modern business nomads are also eager to find the best deal. The Berbers will teach us how, it’s all about possibilities and opportunities. It’s all about the spirit of trade.