Riffian people

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Total population
5 ~ 6 million
Regions with significant populations
Morocco ~ 5.000.000
France 379,952
Netherlands 314,517
Belgium 226,095
Germany 120,000
Riffian-Berber (mother tongue), Moroccan Arabic, Spanish, French
Sunni Islam (majority), Christianity (especially in Ceuta and Melilla)
Related ethnic groups
other Berbers

The Riffian people are a Berber ethnic group who inhabit the Rif in northern Morocco. They number about 5 million people spread over the whole area of northern Morocco. The mother tongue of the Riffians is called Tmaziɣt by themselves and is called Riffian or Tarifit by outsiders. Many Riffians also speak Moroccan Arabic, Spanish or French as second or third languages.

Riff languages

Rif mountain ranges are located in (orange).

Riffian is a Northern Berber language of the Zenati subgroup, spoken mainly in the Rif region located in North Morocco and in various other cities by about 4 million people. There are also Riffian-speaking immigrants in Europe. The language itself is divided in several dialects, all intelligible to each clans composing the Rifian region. In neighbouring Algeria, it was spoken by Rif clans who have settled in some areas such as Bethioua. The Berber dialect spoken in Tlemcen (Beni Snouss) is often seen as an eastern variety of the language.

Regional distribution

Riffian is spoken mainly in the Moroccan Rif by about 3 to 4 million people, with a few speakers across the border in Algeria and a large minority in the Spanish Autonomous city of Melilla. There are also speakers of Riffian in Morocco outside the Rif, among significant communities in Tangiers, Tetouan, Jerada and Fes. A substantial Riffian-speaking community exists in the Netherlands as well as to a lesser extent in other European countries. Its own speakers simply call it Thamazight, or Tamazight, a term also often applied in a broader sense to Berber languages in general.


Distribution of hair and eye colors according to Carleton S. Coon’s 1939 Races of Europe. Northern Morocco is an area of mixed (dark and light) hair and eye colours.[1]

Riffians have a relatively high occurrence of light hair, eyes, and skin compared to the other Berber groups.[2]


Traditionally, the principal Riffian tribes of the region are:

See also


  1. Coon, Carleton Stevens (1939). "The Mediterranean World". The Races of Europe. New York: The Macmillan Company. p. Plate 30. OCLC 575541610. Retrieved 16 June 2013. A Riffian from the coastal village of Ajdir, in the tribe of Beni Uriaghel. In pigment, in measurements, and morphologically this Riffian is as perfect a Nordic as one could find in northern Europe. Nordics are ancient in Northern Africa as the Egyptian monuments of the Middle Kingdom, and perhaps older. They survive today mostly in the mountains of the Rif, Atlas mountains, Soussi of Souss valley, the Canary Islands and the Chleuhs. 
  2. Coon, Carleton Stevens (1939). "The Mediterranean World". The Races of Europe. New York: The Macmillan Company. pp. 480–482. OCLC 575541610. Retrieved 16 June 2013.