Berbers in Morocco celebrate Amazigh New Year.

Jan 13, 2016 The Amazigh of Morocco recently celebrated their New Year with plenty of food, music and dance.

The ethnic group, whose name translates to “free humans”, has inhabited North Africa for thousands of years, before the introduction of Islam by the Arabs in the seventh century.

The celebration was marked with the preparation of a traditional couscous dish with seven vegetables as part of the festivities.

Commenting on this, Benaceur Azaday said:

“People are celebrating by preparing couscous. They used to put couscous on top of tents in the Middle Atlas. If the grains of couscous are dispersed, they say that some devout people eat it and that the year will be good”.

But unlike the Christian and Islamic calendars, the celebration by the Amazigh has no religious connotation.

With a rich cultural and artistic heritage, the Amazighs are keen to preserve it and pass it to their descendants.

One of the band leaders, Ali Azarraf commented on the celebration saying:

“We sing and dance Ahwach and Ahidous to celebrate the New Year. We consider this art as a passion like a god sent good. This art was left to us by our ancestors and we are keen to preserve it,”

The New Year celebration usually brings an opportunity to re-discover traditional music and dances from the various parts of Morocco.

Another band leader, Haddou Ouzhour said:

“Imazighen are people of co-habitation, solidarity and fraternity. They are always optimistic, including in their weddings. They have plenty of traditions and customs. For example, at this occasion, they gather between friends and families and the bride joins her groom. They paint her with henna and there is a confirmation of the union.”

Prior to now, the Amazigh culture and language were marginalized and reduced to mere folklore. However in the early 2000s, a Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture was set up in Rabat.

In 2011, the Amazigh culture and language was recognized in the Moroccan Constitution.

Hassan el Kaissi, chairman of the local Addour Association spoke on the reversed fortunes of the Amazighs saying:

“We are happy with what we achieved for the Amazighs but we are asking for more. We want our language to benefit from the same rights Arabic has because it is an official language and we also insist on the fact that 13 January should be made a national public bank holiday,”

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