The Berbers have lived in North Africa for thousands of years and their presence has been recorded as early as 3000 BC. Greeks, Romans, and ancient Egyptians have indicated the presence of Berbers in their records.
Today this ethnic group is smaller than it once was. Earlier in their history the Berbers lived in a region that extend from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean. In the 7th century AD, the Arabs invaded North Africa and pushed the Berbers towards the Atlas Mountains and other areas near the Sahara. The Arabs also brought their Muslim faith to the Berbers at this time. Today the majority of Berbers live in Morocco and Algeria. They make up 40 percent of Morocco's population, 30 percent of Algeria's population and only 1 percent of Tunisia's. The region they inhabit in North Africa is referred to as The Magreb.
The language of the Berbers belongs to the Afro-Asiatic language family and it can be broken down into 300 different dialects. Berber is a spoken language and its written form is rarely used or seen.
The physical characteristics of a Berber that distinguish them from other ethnic groups are their build and skin color. They have slight builds and their skin tone can be anywhere from white to near-white to dark brown. The Berbers have intermingled with many other ethnic groups, most commonly the Arabs. As a result, the term Berber relates more to the language spoken and not necessarily to a specific race.
Today's Berbers are Muslim. However, they also have retained some of their original beliefs and many of their rituals contain animistic references and elements retained from earlier pagan religions. They live in rural areas where they raise sheep and cattle. Nowadays, some have even begun growing crops. In the larger villages, Berbers live in stone houses but in the smaller villages they live in tents or clay huts.
Berbers are involved in flour milling, wood carving, and quarrying millstones. They also produce various agricultural implements and utensils for domestic use. Their arts and crafts include the making of pottery, jewelry and goods of leather.
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