Riffian people

Riffian-Berber (mother tongue), Moroccan Arabic, Spanish, French
Sunni Islam (majority), Christianity (especially in Ceuta and Melilla)[1][2]
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.


Traditionally, the principal Riffian tribes of the region are:

See also


  1. Rif Independent Movement
  2. Lucien Oulahbib, Le monde arabe existe-t-il ?, page 12, 2005, Editions de Paris, Paris.

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