Arab-Berbers (Arabic: العرب والبربر al-ʿarab wa-l-barbar) are an ethnolinguistic group of the Maghreb, a vast region of North Africa in the western part of the Arab world along the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Arab-Berbers are people of mixed Arab and Berber origin, most of whom speak a variant of Maghrebi Arabic as their native language, although about 16 to 25 million speak various Berber languages. Many Arab-Berbers identify primarily as Arab and secondarily as Berber.
|c. 96 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
(99% of the population)
(99% of the population)
(98% of the population)
|France||c. 6 million|
(at least some Maghrebi ancestry)
(90–97% of the population)
(30% of the population)
(Sunni; also Shi'a, Ibadi);
minority Judaism, Christianity
|Related ethnic groups|
|Other Arabs, Sahrawi, Tuareg, Berbers, Arabized Berber, other Afroasiatic-speaking peoples|
While some Arab-Berbers claim West Asian descent, genetic studies there have determined that Arab and non-Arab Berbers are genetically nearly identical. This suggests that the processes of "Arabization" in the Maghreb was probably mainly cultural rather than genetic. The Arab-Berber identity came into being as a direct result of the Arab conquest of North Africa, and the intermarriage between the Arabian and Persian people who immigrated to those regions and local mainly Roman Africans and other Berber people; in addition, Banu Hilal and Sulaym Arab tribes originating in the Arabian Peninsula invaded the region and intermarried with the local rural mainly Berber populations, and were a major factor in the linguistic, cultural and ethnic Arabization of the Maghreb.
Arab-Berbers primarily speak variants of Maghrebi Arabic which form a dialect continuum of more-or-less mutually intelligible varieties known as (Darija or Derja (Arabic: دارجة). which means "everyday/colloquial language". Maghrebi Arabic preserves a significant Berber, Latin and possibly Neo-Punic substratum which makes them both quite distinct and largely mutually unintelligible to other varieties of Arabic spoken outside Maghreb. Moreover, they also have many loanwords from French, Turkish, Italian and the languages of Spain. Modern Standard Arabic is used as the lingua franca.
Medieval Arabic sources refers to Northwest Africa as Ifriqiya, Mauretania or as Bilad Al Barbar (English: Land of the Berbers; Arabic: بلاد البربر). This designation may have given rise to the term Barbary Coast which was used by Europeans until the 19th century to refer to coastal Northwest Africa.
Since the populations were partially affiliated with the Arab Muslim culture, Northwest Africa also started to be referred to by the Arabic speakers as Al-Maġrib, the Maghreb (meaning "The West") as it was considered as the western part of the known world. For historical references, medieval Arab and Muslim historians and geographers used to refer to Morocco as Al-Maghrib al Aqşá ("The Farthest West"), disambiguating it from neighboring historical regions called Al-Maghrib al Awsat ("The Middle West", Algeria) and Al-Maghrib al Adna ("The Nearest West", Ifriqiya (Tunisia)).
The Maghreb was gradually arabized with the spread of Islam in the 7th century AD, when the liturgical language Arabic was first brought to the Maghreb. However, the bulk of the population of northwestern Africa remained Berber or Roman Africans at least until the 14th century. Arabization was at least partly strengthened in the rural areas in the 11th century with the emigration of the Banu Hilal tribes from Egypt. However, many parts of the Maghreb were only arabized relatively recently in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the area of the Aurès (Awras) mountains. Lastly, the mass education and promotion of Arabic language and culture through schools and mass media, during the 20th century, by the maghrebis governments, is regarded as the strongest contributor to the Arabization process in the Maghreb.
Various population genetics studies along with historians such as Gabriel Camps and Charles-André Julien lend support to the idea that the bulk of the gene pool of modern Maghrebis, irrespective of linguistic group, is derived from the Berber populations of the pre-Islamic period.
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