Inscriptions on buildings and signs in a foreign language can be seen all around Morocco. This plaque reads “Technopark” Berber in Morocco. There is, indeed, such a thing. We were fortunate: “Technopark” is “Teknubark” in Berber. Because of this coincidence, we are able to read the inscription. You must read it from left to right in order to recognize some recognizable letters. The cross looks like the letter “T”, the zigzag looks like the letter “E”. The last letter appears almost like a “K”. The remaining letters are unintelligible and do not resemble Latin letters.
Berber languages are diverse. Almost 90% of Berbers are fluent in at least one of the seven Berber languages. They are all slightly different from one another. Domestically, we would refer to them as dialects.
Berber languages employ various alphabets for writing. For many years, these diverse writing systems have attempted to converge. The most successful attempt was the “New Tifinag” alphabet, which was created in Morocco in 2003. The majority of Berber inscriptions in Morocco are made in New Tifinag.
Berbers write and speak the Berber in Morocco language.
The term “Berber” is related to the term “barbarian,” and it came to us from Greek, where it signified any foreigner. Of course, the people’s self-name has no barbarian overtones. Berbers refer to themselves as Amazigh, or free people.
People who are free live in various countries. Morocco is home to the majority of Berbers, estimated to number between 14 and 20 million people. Algeria comes in second with 9 to 13 million Berbers. The other countries are far behind: Libya is third with 4 million Berbers, followed by Mauritania and France, each with 2.5 million Berbers.
Morocco is properly named the Berber homeland since it not only has more Berbers than any other country, but it also has half of the population. That’s a lot of information.
What are the characteristics of Berbers and where do they live? We witness vibrant images of people dressed in the national attire galabeya and draped with an indigo tagelmust.
This is a collective image, as I stated in a broad evaluation of Morocco. The tagelmust and galabeya are the Berber national dresses. However, relatively few people wear them every day. Berbers primarily live in the countryside, mountains, or desert. Beautiful, expensive clothes are rarely worn in such circumstances. They quickly become dirty and torn. They only dress like that on holidays. Or it could be the way city folks dress.
Berbers are found across Morocco, but their traditional habitat is in rural villages and hamlets. Many of them are hermits who live in the desert and mountains. Most people, though, like small towns.
They are woefully underequipped. There is no paving, no running water, and power was only recently provided. Ourika, forty kilometers from Marrakech, is a typical Berber community.
In Ourika, there is a Berber museum with a variety of artifacts, most of which are functional: plows, stupas, oil churns, knives, scythes, and millstones.
Surprisingly, the head of the museum in the middle of nowhere speaks good Russian.
Salah enjoys solving riddles. As he walks you through the museum, he asks you to estimate what each thing is and what it is used for. Even in your native tongue, let alone English, you don’t always remember the correct word. Salah, on the other hand, prompts: “This one is called melnitis.”
Salah’s favorite topic, though, is Berber carpets. It turns out that these rugs contain entire stories.
Are a writing system. The cipher is built on two figures. A triangle symbolizes a man, while a rhombus symbolizes a lady. The rhombuses and triangles on the rug are constantly repeated and serve as the story’s structure.
After that, the figures are colored. Their meaning is hazy, but green usually means heaven and blue means a child. Yellow may also represent a male, while red represents a lady.
The various combinations and repetitions of figures and colors tell a straightforward story. The rhombuses, for example, are repeated on both sides of this rug. The figure contains a total of 24 rhombuses. This is how the 24-year-old woman is encoded.
Inside is a rough sketch of a man. His head is painted green and shaped like a rhombus, signifying that he is a woman. On the other hand, the body is painted yellow.
The entire cipher indicates that the woman, 24, is pregnant with a boy. This rug was given to me as a birthday gift.
This is the most basic motif. Carpets can be far more sophisticated, and only Berbers can tell you what’s what. Salah took an hour to explain us about the rugs.
By the way, these rags aren’t fit for a rug—they’re made of who knows what. Strings or plant stalks could be used. It is difficult to lie on such a carpet, let alone use it as a rug near the door. But because Berbers are poor, this rag serves as a carpet for them.
If the carpets aren’t appealing, you might ask Salah to show you around his home. The Berbers will gladly offer you a tour of an absolutely awful abode for a nominal price.
The Berber village’s dwellings
Are created from nothing. It appears to be made of clay and straw, as well as bricks and concrete. All of the structures are ridiculously cheap and weak, and there is nothing around but dirt and ruins.
You should not assume that Morocco is constantly hot. Ourika is located near the Atlas Mountains and is fairly cold in the winter. In rainy weather, the temperature is only +10 degrees Celsius during the day, but it might be cold at night.
The shaky clay houses let in all the water. They get flooded during the rains, which is inconvenient.
However, the house is cold even in the summer. It is specially designed to be cool in the summer. Even in the summer, not every room in the house is adequately heated. As a result, every Berber home has a stove.
The stove is set up to heat not only the house, but also the livestock barn. Berber in Morocco keep cattle in the basement of their homes, including cows and donkeys.
Of course, the scent from the animals is out of this world. It makes you want to throw up. “The cattle are warmed by the heater, and they dung and breathe, so they also heat the home,” Salah adds.
In the house, there is another stove. It is used in the preparation of food. Berbers prepare their food in a pot if it is soup and meat, or directly on a clay oven if it is flatbread.
The house has numerous rooms. The poorer the population, the better it breeds and multiplies. Berbers have large families, sometimes numbering several dozen persons.
But the house’s rooms are all gloomy, like storerooms. It is really tough to live in such circumstances.
Women can be found in Berber settlements. Berber women whip butter in their spare time between building a house, cultivating the field, and walking the animals. The world’s most delectable butter.
The milk is collected from the cow and deposited into the butter churn. In reality, the butter churn looks nothing like it does in the museum. While there is a wooden mortar with a handle in the museum, the butter is actually churned in a ten-liter plastic bottle dangling from the ceiling.
For hours, the butter is beaten. The woman sits in a little chair and shakes the butter churn back and forth over a small fire for hours.
While the butter is being creamed, salt is added. This is done for storage rather than flavor. There are often years when the harvest is poor. As a result, the butter is salted and stored in big barrels. If the year is terrible, the oil is extracted from the salt and consumed.
It turns out that the salty flavor of such butter is not an afterthought, but rather a natural result of salting. Because the oil cannot be thoroughly cleaned after salting, it remains slightly salty.
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