Daily life of nomads in Morocco

The last Nomads in Morocco

Nomadism is known in the history of many countries. This nomadic lifestyle has ended in some countries, while still existing in others. In Morocco there are Nomads living as their ancestors hundreds of years ago. They move from one region to another with the herds looking for the best pastures and weather that suits them and their animals. These two elements still oblige these small groups of people to live in the wilderness of the Atlas mountains, to do the transhumance, and to continue what they feel as freedom. Due to the drought and the development of the world around them, Nomads of Morocco are becoming fewer every year, some tribes like Ait Atta in the Atlas mountains used to be 500 families 50 years ago, while only about 50 are still nomads now. Semi-nomads choose to continue the same lifestyle but to settle in a tent or a cave, with no more moving around, while some have settled in the valleys and villages to work in agriculture or any other jobs available.

The Amazigh nomads who are over 90%, follow the Muslim religion in a very personal way. They celebrate the religious holidays, following the other Muslim duties, without losing their culture or the unique language that they speak.

Where do Moroccan nomads live?
Since Morocco had a tribunal system just 50 years ago. Every tribe has its own land and pastures, where they move from one season to another, looking for better herbs and water for their herds. Most of the nomads live in the Atlas mountains in a tent made of goat hair, such as in the case with the Ait Atta tribe. The main income would be from goats and often a few camels. Ait Atta originally lives in Jbel Saghro mountain, their homeland, although they have their pastures in the High Atlas, where they move in the summer month. Every May, the families walk with their goats and camels from the Saghro mountains to the High Atlas, this journey. an  take over 15 days. At the beginning of the first snow, they will do the same trip back to their homeland in the Saghro mountains.

Nomads also in the Sahara desert of Morocco, in small communities, often far from each other. They live in harmony with the harsh environment of the Sahara. They live around Erg Chebbi dunes, as well as the surrounding of Erg Chegaga and the western Sahara in large numbers. This way of nomadism is similar to the Touareg nomads in the north of Mali.

Some nomads in Morocco also live in caves, they move from one  cave to another, for the same reasons as the other nomads. These caves can be found in the region of Boutghrar, Dades valley, and around Todgha gorges. 

The life of nomads living in tents or caves is definitely a harsh lifestyle, In this case, it’s not always nomads who choose their way of living, but often it’s the other way around.

Where they get food and daily supplies:
In every region, nomads have their main Souk Market where they get the supplies for a week or two weeks. Nkob Village, for example the principal market is the place where all the nomads in Jbel Saghro get their food from as well as  where they sell their goats. In this village, every Saturday there is an opportunity to find nomads in the market of goats. Souk or weekly markets play an important role in the nomad’s life, not only to sell and buy but also to visit their families and get the updated news, as most nomads live in the wild.

Local transportation is available in most regions for the nomads to the market, The same local transport is usually provided to take their goats to the souk. Often Nomads travel on the back of their mule to get to the market and back to the camp the next day same as they did hundreds of years ago. This weekly travel for a number of the family is the only way to be involved in society.

What do the nomads in Morocco wear?
Depending on the mountain region, the Nomads of Morocco wear roughly the same clothes. Tajellabiyt or Jellaba is still one of the main clothing. Either in the mountains or the desert. The scarf or Shesh is very important, to protect both men and women from the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

In some Saharian regions, nomads wear Draia, which is a blue full dress that covers the whole body, like a Jellaba. This type of clothing is believed to originate from Touareg nomads, who are living in different southern countries such as Mali and South Algeria.

Women in the nomad’s lifestyle:
A woman in the nomad’s society is a noble queen, She struggles with her family in everyday life. In addition to taking care of the camp and children, women do any activity that men do. Although the rules of the women vary from one tribe or clan to another.

The woman is the artist in the Amazigh culture same as with all Berber nomads in Morocco, not just in creating with the colors of the Henna during every special event, but also in making carpets, blankets, and the tent that protects her family from this harsh life in the wild.

Tattoos remain an art that Amazigh nomad women have done for centuries. You can see tattoos on their faces and their hands. Due to religious and cultural influences, these tatoos are getting rare amongst the new generation.

Souk and other traveling reasons is usually the job of the father or the husband. Since it used to be a dangerous adventure in times when there were a lot of conflicts between tribes. Therefore to keep women and children safe they had to stay around the tribe territory, where the tribe has settled for the season.

Nomads daily life
Young children usually stay in the camp with an adult, who would take care of them and do some camp work such as fetch water nearby. Women work in preparing the camp, bringing wood for the fire, or often grazing the goats the whole day. Bringing the water from a source or a well is a daily job, that someone of the family does, the same as grazing the goats. These two activities are a daily concern of everyone in the nomad family.

Weekly men would travel to the market to bring the supplies, or to sell goats. While women take care of everything in the camp.

Daily life activities also depend on the season. There is always something to do for everyone from sunrise to the night. The beauty of the landscape, the calm of the camp, is always a impressive environment for any visitor.

Education for the nomads
An education for nomad children almost means they have to to change their lifestyle. In most of the regions where nomads live, school is far and for those who have a number of children sometimes go to live in a village. That gives more of a chance for the children to go to school, but  it makes it hard for the parents and their lifestyle at the same time. Once children are educated, can they continue the nomadic lifestyle? 
Certainly, it is one of the challenges that nomads have!

Living in the wild would make it very hard for the nomad’s children to get an education. Some associations have taken the initiative to help to build a tent school for the nomads in some regions, although this effort may get harder or vanish as providing a teacher that can follow the nomads wherever they move is a big problem. Especially when the number of nomad families reduces year after year.

How does tourism help the nomads in Morocco?

Nomads in Morocco
Trekking in Morocco mountains helped the nomads to connect with the outside world, they provide their mules to carry tourist luggage. Nomads have started to get involved in mountain tourism since they are the best guides in these wild terrains. In addition to mountain holidays, trekking in the Sahara offered opportunities to Nomads to be a part of the caravans of camel trekking to allow travelers to discover the hidden parts of the Sahara.

Some traveling companies such as Adrar Travel offers some unique experiences to get in touch with Nomads lifestyle, a homestay in the High Atlas as well as walking with nomads during their transhumance journeys. This type of cultural vacation in Morocco helped a lot of nomads to provide a better life for their families and to continue the lifestyle of nomadism which is on the way to disappear.

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