Ethnic groups in Morocco

Arab and Berber cultures date back several centuries in the nation’s history, and they largely define what is now considered to be “Moroccan” daily lifestyles. The Berbers are the indigenous residents of Morocco. The Arab people came in the 7th century and conquered the country. As a result, they infiltrated all sectors of the country and controlled the political, cultural and social way of life of Moroccans. Today, Arabs and Berbers mingle closely, and bilingualism is a common feature in modern Morocco. The Jewish community played an important role in the economic life of Morocco until their numbers began to decline. The other groups in Morocco are Europeans, Sub-Saharan Africans and Gnawa.

Historical village of Morocco

The native Berbers lived in Morocco more than two millennia before the Phoenicians colonized the country in the 8the to 6e Centuries BC. Before the 3rd Century BC, Carthage ruled the coastal areas while native monarchs ruled the hinterland. In 40 AD, the Roman Empire annexed part of what is now Morocco. In the middle of 5e Century AD, the Vandals invaded the country until the 6e Century when the Byzantine Empire took over. In the last phase of the 7e Century, the Muslim invasion of Morocco began. In the 8e Century AD, the Arabs conquered the country and the Umayyad Caliphate ruled Morocco. The Arabs imposed their will on the towns which then developed under their patronage, as did the agricultural areas. Sedentary Berbers joined the Arabs in search of protection from their nomadic relatives. During the Berber revolution of 740, the country broke with the tyranny of the caliphates of Baghdad after the Abbasids replaced the Umayyad caliphate. However, half a century later, the Idrissid dynasty established the Moroccan state. On the death of Idris, son and heir, Morocco dissolved into unimportant principalities. Tangier, the last territory was conquered by the state of Cordoba in 929. From 1549 to 1659 the Saadi dynasties invaded and ruled Morocco. The Alaouites, the ruling dynasty of Morocco took power in 1667. Europeans settled in Morocco in the early 1900s. In 1912-1956, Morocco was colonized by the French and Spanish administrations. The Arabs were the most influential in the cultural and demographic aspects of the country.


The Arabs arrived in Morocco towards the end of the 7th century, doing so in the name of Allah and spreading Islamic teachings. The Arabs had swept the Middle East and North Africa, spreading religion when they came to Morocco. By settling, they assimilated the formerly Christian Berber community and converted it to Muslims. In the Iberian Peninsula War, Arabs and Berbers fought as Muslims. Today, most Moroccans identify as both Arabs and Berbers. Only a few Arabs, especially the sherifs, who trace their ancestors back to Muhammad, the Prophet, claim to be pure Arabs.


The Berbers are the indigenous peoples of Morocco. They have lived in Morocco for over four millennia. They call themselves Amazigh and for centuries they have fought Roman, Arab and French invaders. The Berber language is more oral than written although 2,500-year-old scripts containing their writing system are available. Before the Arab invasion, the Berbers were Christians or Jews. When the Arabs settled in Morocco, they converted to Islam.


The Gnawa people came from what was once the Ghanaian Empire of Ouagadougou, which ruled over Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Gambia and 85% of Mali. The ethnic community has become part of the Sufi order in the Maghreb, present-day Morocco. They adopted Islam but continued to practice possession, a type of dance, in rituals. Gnawa’s music blends classical Islamic Sufism with pre-Islamic African traditions. In Moroccan culture, the Gnawa are considered experts in dealing with psychological disorders, scorpion stings, the use of colors, scents, fear, and the condensed cultural image.


Europeans, also known as White Moroccans, are Moroccans of European descent, most often of Spanish and French ancestry. Europeans settled in Morocco during French and Spanish rule around 1912-1956. Before independence, more than half a million Europeans lived in Morocco. The European population represented almost half of the total population of Casablanca. After the country’s independence in 1956, the European population declined. Today, Europeans represent only 1% of the total population.

the Jews

After the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, many Jews emigrated to Morocco and settled among the Berbers. More Jews came to Morocco before and after the Alhambra decree of 1492. This second wave of immigrants deeply influenced Moroccan Jews, and soon they embraced the Andalusian Sephardic liturgy, and Moroccan Jews began to s ‘identify with Sephardic. By the 1940s, Jews exceeded 250,000, but Operation Yachin reduced that population to around 5,000. From this period, many Moroccan Jews immigrated to Israel.

Sub-Saharan Africans

People from the region of sub-Saharan Africa have emigrated to Morocco since ancient times. During the slave trade, Morocco’s position along the coastline became a hub for Arab traders. In addition, it is possible that some escaped drought and famine in the Sahel region when they arrived in Morocco. Today, the country’s proxy to European countries attracts many sub-Saharan Africans eager to cross. However, strict immigration bans trap many people in Morocco. The majority of sub-Saharan Africans in Morocco are from South Africa with around 2,100 and Côte d’Ivoire with 1,800.

Relations between ethnic groups in Morocco

Since most Moroccans are Muslims, most of these people can interact and relate to each other as fellow Muslims. There is generally a peaceful coexistence between Muslim communities, regardless of their ethnic origin. However, there have been cases of discrimination against the black African community living in Morocco. The peoples of the southern Sahel region are often seen as lesser communities. However, in recent years, the government of Morocco has decided to grant those sub-Saharan Africans living in Morocco more extensive citizenship rights.

About Wesley V. Finley

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