|~9 million (~25% of the moroccan population)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Morocco-Atlas Mountains, Sous Valley|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Shilha people traditionally call themselves ishelhien. This endonym is rendered as les Chleuh in French. The Ishelhien are also known as Shluh and Schlöh. Among Arabic speakers, Chleuh serves as an appellation for Berbers generally, although Imazighen is the proper Berber self-name for Berbers as a whole.
The Shilha people should not be confused with Sous people, which are a Shilha community alongside Ihahan and other Shilha communities.
The Shilha people live mainly in Morocco's southern Atlantic coast, the High Atlas Mountains, the Anti Atlas mountains, and the Sous Valley. They are of Berber origin, which along with the Berber people, includes other ethnic subgroups such as the Tuareg, Rif, Kabyle, Shawia and Beraber. The Shilha people are a part of Morocco's Berber-speaking community, and the southernmost residing Berber population.
In antiquity, Berbers traded with the Phoenicians and Carthaginians in commercial entrepots and colonies along the northwestern littoral. They established the ancient kingdom of Mauretania, which fell under Roman rule in 33 CE, before eventually being reunited under Berber sovereignty. During the 7th century, the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate invaded the Berber and Byzantine strongholds in the Northwest Africa, seizing Carthage in 698 AD. Although the Umayyads nominally controlled Morocco over the following years, their rule was tenuous due to Berber resistance. Shortly in 739 AD, Umayyad Arabs were defeated by the Berbers at the battle of Nobles and Bagdoura. Morocco remained under the rule of Berber kingdoms such as Barghawata and Midrar... etc. In 789 AD, with the approval of the locals, a former Umayyad courtier established the Idrisid dynasty that ruled in Fez. It lasted until 970 AD, as various petty states vied for control over the ensuing centuries. After 1053, Morocco was ruled by a succession of Muslim dynasties founded by Berber tribes. Among these were the Almoravid dynasty (1053-1147) who spread Islam in Morocco, the Almohad dynasty (1147-1275), and the Marinid dynasty (1213-1524). In 1668, a sharifan family from the east assumed control and established the incumbent Alawite dynasty.
Although the Ishelhien gradually adopted Islam, they and other Berbers in the mountains have held on to their traditional language, culture and religious customs to varying degrees. A small minority of the Shilha people are Christians and Jewish.
The French and Spanish colonial empires partitioned Morocco in 1904, and the southern part of the territory was declared a French protectorate in 1912. Arabization remained an official state policy under both the colonial and succeeding post-independence governments. With the spread of the Berber Spring to Berber territory during the 1980s, the Berbers sought to reaffirm their Berber roots. This culminated with a proposal by Berber nationalists in 2013 to establish an autonomous Shilha state within a greater Moroccan federation.
The Ishelhien mainly live in Morocco's Atlas Mountains and Sous Valley. Traditionally, they are farmers who also keep herds. Some are semi-nomadic, growing crops during the season when water is available, and moving with their herds during the dry season.
The Ishelhien communities in the southwestern mountains of Morocco cooperated with each other in terms of providing reciprocal grazing rights as seasons changed, as well as during periods of war. These alliances were re-affirmed by annual festive gatherings, where one Shilha community would invite nearby and distant Shilha communities.
People of Shilha descent
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