On nomads and the concept of home. #MoroccanFridays


Original photo by my dearest friend and talented photographer – Lina. (Adapted by Writer’s Caravan)

Salam Aleykoum! This post is part of the Moroccan Fridays series in which I aim to shine a light on the country I grew up in. The series strives to explore various topics, swaying between reality and legends, geographical wonders and curious traditions. You can discover previous posts here


Home. A comforting word to some, a source of pain and turmoil for others. Home. A concept often taken for granted. Home. An endangered term.

I have long thought on this post. With the current refugee crisis and the horrors we are witnessing on a daily basis, does it seem appropriate to talk about home? Does it seem appropriate to talk about nomads and their way of living? I will let you decide…

A nomad is… by definition, a member of a group of people who have no fixed home. They move according to the seasons, in search of food, water and grazing land. Nomads are well-known to Western culture. The tales of the Tuareg have been told and retold in literature – the “Blue Men” have almost become a symbol of the desert, like a hazy vision, an indigo blue veil (the cheche) billowing in the Saharan wind.

A Tuareg in the desert. (Photo by Aysha Bibiana Balboa)

Although there is a small population of Tuaregs in the Moroccan Sahara, they are not the prevailing nomadic tribe in Morocco. Nowadays, many guides south of Ouarzazate wear the blue disguise and claim to be descendants of the Blue People but more often than not, it is only a trap for tourists. But I’m digressing.

There are many tribes in Morocco. And of course (I shouldn’t be that cynical), their lifestyle is in decline. It has been threatened by natural occurrences like droughts and not so natural occurrences like colonialism. In order to keep this post to an acceptable length, I shall only focus on one tribe today. (See map of tribes to see what I mean when I say, “many”)


Map of Moroccan tribes. (picture source)

The Ait Atta are the largest tribal Berber confederation in Morocco. But don’t be fooled. They are further divided in more tribes, spread around the country. They are defined as semi-nomadic people but in many books I have read (there seems to be more literature in French than in English – lucky me!), they are actually depicted as a fully nomadic tribe.

Before the 1930s and the French Protectorate… transhumance was a widespread activity. Twice a year, ‘Atta groups would emigrate in spring and along with their livestock, in search for grazing land in the higher pastures of the Atlas Mountains. This was a well-organised system, with collective pasture lands called agudal and rigid rules such as strict opening and closing dates and heavy fines for trespassers not entitled to use the agudal.

Minding goats in Atlas mountains (photo by David Rosen)

The main focus of transhumance was the ma’idar – naturally occurring basins in the hamada areas ofthe desert where water would gather. The perfect land to cultivate. When the rain was sufficient, telegrams were sent out to all ‘Atta groups ; invitations for cultivation were on a first come, first serve basis. Those wishing to participate were expected to be at the rendezvous exactly 8 days after the convocation. Not a day before, not a day after. Rigid, I told you. 

As generations succeed one another… it seems that the nomads become more and more settled. Families have been known to sell their animals and buy a house in a village, thus putting the nomadic concept into perspective. But migration still exists. Some groups have even started charging tourists to join them on their 6-month “expedition”.

Would you join them? 


Thanks for reading.
Hop on my Facebook and Twitter caravans.

22 responses to “On nomads and the concept of home. #MoroccanFridays

  1. Interesting. I drive a Touareg. Every time I turn it on an image of a dessert is displayed. I travel a lot in it. Like the trips across the continent this summer. And summers past. That’s my annual trek. Now I have a little more perspective. I love the car. Love travelling in it. A nomad at heart 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am really loving this Morroccan series of posts, Eli! I have trekked twice in the Atlas mountains, getting to the top of Toubkal on the sicond attempt. I love everything about the Atlas mountains, that I have experienced, at any rate. The air is so clean and clear, the sky is so blue, the landscape so rocky and barren, and the villages on the way up still so primitive. It is peaceful. There wasnt a road then, maybe there is now, but I almost hope not. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Yeah, I think I left a little piece of my heart there…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Your posts are always interesting and informative. That map makes the point very clearly about how complicated the subject is. I’m intrigued by the lifestyle but I think a six-month trek might be a little on the long side for me. I don’t see my boss giving me the time off work. He’d probably let me have a long weekend if I asked nicely.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your Friday posts cast a wide net. I admire your thoughtfulness, wondering whether to post about home when so many Syrians (and others) are losing theirs. I also admire the way you are very specific – no nomad generalisations here.

    I don’t think I’d go on a six-month expedition – it would seem to me like appropriation, another form of colonialism: and I don’t know whether I’m tough enough.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: House or Home #1000speak @1000speak | TanGental·

  6. Pingback: From caravan leaders to desert guides. #MoroccanFridays | A Writer's Caravan·

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