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Rifan womn with hat.jpg
Riffian women in Chefchaouen
Total population
between 4,730,000 and 6,630,000
Regions with significant populations
 Morocco 4,800,000
 Algeria 860,000
 Netherlands 650,000
 France 320,000

Tarifit, Moroccan Arabic, Spanish, French


Islam • Jewish • Christian

Related ethnic groups

Berber • Mediterranean race

The Riffians are a Berber people who inhabit the Rif in northern Morocco. The mother tongue of the Riffians is Tarifit, though many speak Moroccan Arabic, Spanish or French as second or third languages.



Physical anthropology

Berbers are defined as Mediterranean[1][2] with moderate Alpinid and Nordic admixture closer to Europeans than to Africans. This is supported by a scientific study done on Rif Berbers showing that 38.6% of the Rif Berbers have blue or green eyes, a percentage higher than that found in Italians or Spaniards.[3][4]

Riffian languages

Tarifit is a Northern Berber language of the Zenati subgroup, spoken mainly in the Moroccan Rif and in other cities by about 4 million people. There is about 1 million Tarifit-speaking immigrants in Europe. Tarifit is a Berber language, belonging to the Zenati subgroup of Northern Berber, and possibly the Rif subgroup of Zenati.

Regional distribution

Tarifit is spoken mainly in the Moroccan Rif by about 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 Tarifit in Morocco outside the Rif, among significant communities in Oujda, Tangiers, Tetouan, Larache, Fes, and Casablanca. A substantial Tarifit-speaking community exists in the Netherlands as well as in other European countries including Belgium, Germany, France, and mainland Spain. Its own speakers simply call it Thamazight, or Tamazight, a term also often applied in a broader sense to Berber languages in general.


Rif mountain ranges are located in (orange).

Traditionally, the principal Rif tribes of the region are:

  • Aith Ouriaghel near Ajdir, around Oued Ghis (Abd el-Krim's tribe)
  • Gzennaya, around Aknoul, west of the Metalsa
  • Galiya, in the region of Melilla
    • Mazuza
    • Aith Shisher / Ait Shiker
    • Aith Sidal
    • Aith Bu Ifrur
    • Aith Buyafar
  • Kebdana, along the coast next to Oued Moulouya near the Algerian border
  • Aith Said, west of Oued Kert
  • Oulad Stut,south of the Kebdana
  • Aith Bu Yahi, along Oued Moulouya south of the Oulad Stut
  • Metalsa, east of the Aith Bu Yahi
  • Aith Ulishk, southwest of Temsaman
  • Tafersit, southwest of Temsaman
  • Aith Tuzin, south of Temsaman
  • Temsaman, around the town of that name
  • Aith Amart, south of Aith Ouriaghel
  • Targuist, southeast of Aith Ouriaghel
  • Bokoya, in the west of Aith Ouriaghel
  • Aith Itteft, east of Bades
  • Aith Bu Frah, east of Aith Itteft
  • Mestassa, east of Aith Bu Frah
  • Mtiwa, between Mestassa and Oued Ouringa
  • Beni Guemil, west of Aith Bu Frah
Riffian people located in yellow.

References and notes

  1. ^ "At best we can define Berbers as Mediterranean. In terms of their physical anthropology they are more closely related to Sicilians, Spaniards and Egyptians than to Nigerians, Saudi Arabians or Ethiopians", Brett, Michael; & Fentress, Elizabeth, The Berbers (1997), p.4
  2. ^ Physical Anthropology of European Populations, Mouton, 1980, p.264: "there are three main types to be found (...). The Mediterranean element is always the major one making up about three-quarters of the population , and it appears to have three recognizable variants: (1) an Ibero-insular type (...); (2) an Atlanto-Mediterranean type (...); (3) finally, a type called "Saharan", rather infrequent (...). A second element which is fundamental but not widespread has been classed as Alpine by certain authors. (...) They constitute about one-tenth of the population, but it does not seem that they can be confused with the European Alpine type (...). A third element with Armenoid ties characterizes less than ten percent of the subjects (...). Beside these classes, some traces of the ancient Mechta-Afalou type can be found (...)."
  3. ^ Les algériens et les populations arabo-berbères du nord de l'Afrique", Chamla, 1974
  4. ^ Marie-Claude Chamla in Physical Anthropology of European Populations, Mouton, 1980, p.265-66 :"Green or light chesnut-colored eyes can frequently be found in the mountains areas (Kabylie and especially aures) and in the high plains of the east. This relative frequency of "mixed" colored eyes is not peculiar to Algerians but is apparent in other countries of North Africa as well, especially in Morocco (...) The frequency of pale-colored eyes (blue and gray), varies from two to fifteen percent according the region concerned"
Berber Ethnic groups

Chaouis | Chenouas | Chleuhs | Kabyles | Mozabites | Rifains | Siwis | Tuareg | Zayanes

Berber flag


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