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North African Berbers celebrate Amazigh New Year Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

North African Berbers celebrate Amazigh New Year

Celebrations are planned in majority Berber areas, such as Agadir and Tiznit [Getty/Archive]

Date of publication: 12 January, 2016

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Berbers across North Africa began celebrating their New Year celebrations, known as Yennayer in the Tamazight language, on Monday by coming together for traditional celebrations.
Berbers in North Africa are celebrating their New Year, with festivities planned in several cities across Morocco.

Monday marked the first day of year 2967 in the calendar of North Africa's indigenous inhabitants known as the Berbers or the Amazigh.

The southwestern city of Agadir is organising New Year's celebrations on the city's beach front for locals and tourists, according to The New Arab's Arabic service.

In the town of Tiznit, the Tayri N'Wakal Association (Love the Earth) is holding a series of events for Amazigh New Year such as classes for the indigenous Tifinagh alphabet and a lecture on Berber history and civilisation.

The Berbers believe that people who celebrate the New Year will enjoy a fruitful and prosperous year. Contrary to the Christian and Islamic calendars, the Amazigh feast has no religious connotations and is linked to agriculture.

The celebrations vary among the many Amazigh tribes but one constant is that revellers enjoy meals of a traditional stew known as "ourkimen" and couscous.

See Also: Photo gallery: Berbers begin Amazigh New Year celebrations

It is difficult to establish with any precision the possible historical roots of the Berber New Year, but some historians link it to the enthronement of the Amazigh king Shoshenq I after defeating Ramses III, which is believed to have happened in 950 BC.

Morocco's Berbers in recent years have succeeded in having their language and culture recognised in the constitution, and are now pushing for Berber New Year to be made a public holiday.

In the early 2000s, a Royal Institute for Amazigh Culture was set up in Rabat and Tamazight instruction was introduced in primary schools. Also, an Amazigh television channel was launched in 2006.

Berbers, who are now spread mainly across Algeria, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia were the original inhabitants of North Africa before the 7th century Arab invasion, and they make up a fifth of Algeria's 33 million people. The largest numbers of Berbers are believed to be in Morocco.

Berbers call themselves "imazighen," or free men, and their resentment of Arab-dominated central governments means they have long agitated, sometimes violently, for autonomy.

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