The Berber population is native to North Africa and occupies regions extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. They speak the Berber language belonging to the Afro-Asian family. There are about 25-30 million Berber speakers in North Africa today with the majority found in Libya, Algeria and Morocco. It is believed that most of the population of North Africa is of Berber origin. Berbers are not entirely homogeneous, but include a wide range of societies. The Berber language, heritage and history are considered the main unifying factors of the Berber people.
History and origin of the Berber people
The Berbers have inhabited North America for many years with registers indicating their presence as early as 3000 BC. The group is mentioned for the first time in Egyptian writings during the predynastic period. For several years they have inhabited the coast of North Africa. The Berbers interacted with European colonialists and the invaders of the coastal regions of North Africa who left an imprint on them. Even the Sudanese empires and shepherds of East Africa have had a great influence on the Berber people. The Berbers spread from the coastal areas of North Africa to the Sahara, displacing the first inhabitants like Azer. However, they were assimilated in North Africa by the Arabs already in the 11th century.
The Berber languages are closely related and belong to the Afro-Asian language group. There are about 3,000 languages among the Berber population. It is not possible to ascertain the populations of Berber speakers since most of the Maghreb countries do not have linguistic data. An estimated 20 per 40 million people in Africa speak the Berber language. Berber languages include Tarifit, common in Morocco, Kabyle in Algeria and Tashelhyt in central Morocco. There has been a strong movement by the Berbers to merge all languages into a single standard known as Tamazight. Other notable Berber languages include Siwa, Zenanga and Sanhaja.
Most of the Berber population live in Morocco representing at least 35% of the population and in Algeria where they form at least 15% of the population. A considerable number of Berbers are also found in Libya and Tunisia. Most of the Arabs of North Africa also have a Berber heir. Outside of North Africa, there are about 2.5 million Tuaregs in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. The Tuaregs are traditionally the nomadic Berbers who inhabit the vast Sahara desert. Berbers are stereotyped in Europe as nomads. However, most Berbers are mainly farmers who occupy the mountains closest to the Mediterranean coast. Some of the Berber nobles include Zinedine Zidane, Augustine of Hippo and Ziri ibn Manada, the founder of the Zarid Dynasty.