Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Shilha Intro/Index

This blog is about the Shilha people of North Africa. The Shilha people inhabit the Western High Atlas and Anti Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The Shilhan culture is an offshoot from he Berber ethnic group, which are the dominant North African ethnicity. The culture will be broken up into the following posts:





4.    Shilhan Cosmos







8.    Shilhan Music




10.   References



Saturday, May 3, 2014

History of the Shilha

History of the Shilha

Ancient Berber Territories
The Shilha are a sub-culture group of the Berbers. The Berbers are the ethnic group native to North Africa. The Berbers pre-existed the modern day Arab groups that inhabit much of North Africa and particularly Morocco. The Shilha and the other Berber groups descended from the ancient Numidians, who were close allies with the Carthaginians. The Berbers at first resisted conversion to Islam, but around the 7th century A.D. a vast majority of them converted to Islam. Following their conversion, they played a very important role in the Islamic invasion and eventual takeover of Spain in the 8th century A.D.

During the 11th and 13th centuries the Berbers existed as two large dynasties: the Almoravids and the Almohads. The Berbers held control over the majority of Spain as well as North Africa. The major split of the Shilha from the greater Berber group is seen in their language. The classical Berbers spoke either Tarifit, Tachelhit or Tamazight. The Shilhan people spoke Tachelhit, whereas many of the other major groups spoke Tarifit or Tamazight. These languages originated sometime around the origin of the Carthaginian people.

Following imperialism throughout much of North Africa the Berbers were split into separate regions based off of the territories they lived in. Many became citizens of these European owned territories and were even converted to Christianity.


Goodman, Jane E. Berber Culture On The World Stage : From Village To Video. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 5 May 2014.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Homeland of the Shilha

Homeland of the Shilha
The Shilha live predominantly in southern Morocco, however a small portion also inhabit western Algeria. Many of them live in the Western High Atlas and the Anti Atlas mountains of Morocco. Much of their daily lifestyles are limited by their landscape and climate. They have very limited land that can be used for agriculture, due to the limited amount of rich soil, vegetation and water. The landscape is very mountainous with large valleys in between the separate ranges. Their communities are very separated by the Atlas Mountains. Even though they are not very long, they have some of the highest peaks in the entire region.
Between November and May the entire region is blanketed in snow, making it difficult to keep crops alive as well as feed the livestock. On the southern slopes of both the Atlas Mountains and the Anti Atlas Mountains there is almost no plant life or vegetation available to them.
Many of the people live down in the valleys and tend to live nomadically as they travel from place to place. A few of the people live within square huts on the sides of the mountain ranges.

Much of northern Africa is very barren with the exception of a few reservoirs of water found deep within canyons. The location of the Shilhan villages and society are dependent on the availability and proximity of natural resources such as vegetation for their herds, water, and adequate soil for agriculture. Centuries of their people inhabiting these rough terrains have made them experts at being able to survive with little to no resources provided by the earth.


Cohen, Mark I. Morocco: old land, new nation. Publisher: New York, Praeger [1966].

Sadiqi, Fatima. "The Place Of Berber In Morocco." International Journal Of The Sociology Of Language 1997.123 (1997): 7-21. Communication & Mass Media Complete. Web. 20 Apr. 2014.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

World of the Shilha

World of the Shilha
The world of the Shilha revolve solely around the successes of their individual villages. They are very segregated, due to the landscape and often only have up to about 500 people within each village. Most villagers make a living as shepherds or farmers. They typically herd smaller livestock such as goats and sheep. The most common crop they grow is couscous. Couscous is a staple of their diet and is often incorporated into every meal. They also harvest many spice crops such as cinnamon and cardamom. Crops and livestock may be taken to larger market areas to be sold.

In recent years many Shilhan people have left their villages for large cities in search of jobs and prosperity. Most of their core values align with traditional Islam. Education is not considered very valuable with only young boys attending school to learn the Quran. Women are subservient to the men and are not formally educated. They are a very poor people that make something out of nothing. They are a very proud, hardworking people.

They speak the native language of Tashelhit, which is a Berber language. This language has been around for centuries and is only spoken by the Shilhan people and a few other small Berber groups. With the reading of the Quran North Africa dialects of Arabic have almost been commonly spoken in recent years. 


Blauer, Ettagale and Jason Laure. Morocco. New York : Children's Press, c1999.



Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Shilhan Cosmos

The Shilhan Cosmos

Moroccan Mosque
99.9% of the Shilhan people practice Islam. About 0.1% practice Christianity. It is illegal to practice any other religion other than Islam, however missionaries have been making strides in the area, beginning with the distribution of Bibles to a few villages of people. Although they practice Islam, they also have elements of mysticism and spiritism that are intertwined with traditional Islamic traditions and beliefs.

Shilhan Ritual Dance
These elements of mysticism and spiritism are based off of mythical legends and other cultural aspects that are unique to each village. Festivals And celebrations occur within each village in accordance with Islam as well as their local spiritual beliefs. They closely follow the Quran, however they are not as strict as many other North African Muslim groups. They do not practice or adhere to Sharia Law, but women are still very submissive to their husbands. They believe in a God that is constantly present and active in their daily lives.

The Shilhan values and culture are directly tied to their strong Islamic faith. They do not eat pork, nor do they consume alcohol. They participate in standard Islamic holidays such as Ramadan.


Nelson, Harold D. Morocco, a country study / Foreign Area Studies, the American University. Washington, D.C. : Headquarters, Dept. of the Army, 1985.   

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Birds of the Shilha

Birds of the Shilha

Northern Bald Ibis
Morocco’s landscape is very barren and mountainous. This makes it very difficult for many species of birds to survive in its climate. There are approximately 454 different species of birds that live throughout Morocco. 5 species were introduced by humans from other parts of the world and about 156 are considered rare. 

Morocco is home to the world’s largest population of Northern Bald Ibis. This bird is able to survive in very rocky, barren deserts. This makes it the perfect bird to survive in Morocco. This migratory bird is considered critically endangered. It has completely disappeared from Europe and only about 500 remain throughout southern Morocco. The cultures of Morocco respect this bird and it is illegal to kill it. Bird watchers from all over the world travel to Morocco’s Souss-Massa National Park to admire this rare bird species.


Monday, April 28, 2014

The Shilha and Their Neighbors

The Shilha and Their Neighbors
Shilhan Musicians
The Shilha are a minority group within Morocco and are one of the smaller Berber groups. There are only about 8.5 million of them worldwide. Overall, the Shilha are surrounded by other Berber Muslim groups. The dominant ethnic group in Morocco is Berber. They share the Atlas Mountains with the Brabers, Chlouhs, and the Riffians. They get along well with the surrounding groups and tend to exchange goods and trade with them.

The Berber groups around them live very similar lifestyles that revolve around herding and farming. They also live in small segregated villages. The Shilha are recognized by the Moroccan government as a minority group and there don’t appear to be any issues with the government.

Silverstein, Paul A.1. "In The Name Of Culture: Berber Activism And The Material Politics Of "Popular Islam" In Southeastern Morocco." Material Religion 8.3 (2012): 330-353. Art Abstracts (H.W. Wilson). Web. 5 May 2014.