North Africa: A Berber Perspective

Tamazɣa / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ (The Maghreb) in Tamaziɣt / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ (Berber), by Jordan Engel
Tamazɣa / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ (The Maghreb) in Tamaziɣt / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ (Berber), by Jordan Engel

Tamaziɣt / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵜ (Berber) is a family of closely related languages indigenous to North Africa. Tamaziɣt is sometimes written in the Berber Latin alphabet, the Arabic script, or the Tifinaɣ script. The latter, which is the script used in this map, has been used for over 2,000 years by the Berber people. Because the word “Berber” is considered derogatory (derived from Greek word for barbarian), the people instead call themselves Imaziɣen / ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⴻⵏ (singular – Amaziɣ), meaning “free people.” However, freedom has been a long struggle for the Imaziɣen. Under French colonial rule in North Africa, all languages other than French were banned in public life. After independence, all the Maghreb countries to varying degrees pursued a policy of Arabization, aimed partly at displacing French as the dominant language. Under this policy the use of Tamaziɣt was suppressed or even banned. In Libya, the regime of Gaddafi consistently banned the Tifinaɣ script from being used in public contexts such as store displays. Under the rule of King Hassan II in Morocco, thousands of Imaziɣen were imprisoned, tortured, or killed by state violence.There is now a large political-cultural movement in the Maghreb known as Timmuzɣa (Berberism) which, among other goals, seeks to unite Imaziɣen across colonial borders. One group, the Tuareg people, rebelled against the government of Mali in 2012 to form a de facto independent state called Azawad / ⴰⵣⴰⵡⴰⴷ. In the 1970s, activists began to refer to the Maghreb – the region of North Africa including Morocco, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya – as Tamazɣa / ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵣⵖⴰ (“Land of the Berbers”).

This map is oriented South-up in a homage to Muhammad al-Idrisi, an 11th century Amaziɣ cartographer from ⵙⴰⴱⵜⴰ (Cueta – now a Spanish exclave in North Africa). His famously accurate map of the known world, the Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi’khtirāq al-āfāq, was also made in this orientation.

The “North Africa: A Berber Perspective” map by Jordan Engel can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.

List of place names:
English – Tifinaɣ script / Berber Latin alphabet

Adrar, Algeria – ⴰⴷⵔⴰⵔ
Adrar des Ifoghas (Mali) – ⴰⴷⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⵉⴼⵓⵖⴰⵙ / Adrar n Ifoghas
Africa – ⵜⴰⴼⴻⵔⴽⴰ / Taferka
Agadir, Morocco – ⴰⴳⴰⴷⵉⵔ / Agadir
Algiers, Algeria – ⴷⵣⴰⵢⵜ
Annaba, Algeria – ⵄⴻⵏⵏⴰⴱⴰ – Ɛennaba
Atlas Mountains – ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⵡⴰⵟⵍⴰⵚ / Idurar n Waṭlaṣ
Béchar, Algeria – ⴱⴻⵛⵛⴰⵔ / Beccar
Biskra, Algeria – ⵜⵉⴱⴻⵙⴽⴻⵔⵜ / Tibeskert
Casablanca, Morocco – ⴰⵏⴼⴰ / Anfa
Constantine, Algeria – ⵇⵙⵏⵟⵉⵏⴰ / Qsenṭina
Europe – ⵓⵕⵓⵒ / Uṛup
Fez, Morocco – ⴼⴰⵙ / Fas
Gao, Mali – ⴳⴰⵡ

Ghardaïa, Algeria –  ⵜⴰⵖⵔⴷⴰⵢⵜ / Taɣerdayt
Hoggar Mountains (Algeria) – ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⴰⵀⴰⴳⴳⴰⵔ / Idurar n Ahaggar
Kidal, Mali – ⴾⴸⵍ / Kidal
Laayoune, Western Sahara – ⵍⵄⵢⵓⵏ / Leɛyun
Marrakesh, Morocco – ⵎⵕⵕⴰⴽⵛ / Mṛṛakc
Mediterranean Sea – ⵉⵍⴻⵍ ⴰⴳⵔⴰⴽⴰⵍ / Ilel Agrakal
Meknès, Morocco  – ⵎⴽⵏⴰⵙ
Nouakchott, Mauritania – ⵏⵡⴰⴽⵛⵓⵟ / Nawākšūṭ
Oran, Algeria – ⵡⴻⵀⵔⴰⵏ / Wehran
Oujda, Morocco – ⵡⴻⵊⴷⴰ / Wejda
Rabat, Morocco – ⴰⵕⴱⴰⵟ  / Aṛbaṭ
The Rif (Morocco) – ⴰⵔⵉⴼ / Arif
Safi, Morocco – ⴰⵙⴼⵉ / Āsfī
Sahara Desert – ⵜⵉⵏⴰⵔⵉⵓⴻⵏ / Tinariwen (To the Tuareg, the Sahara is not one desert but many, so they call it Tinariwen, which means “the deserts.”)
Siwa Oasis, Egypt – ⵙⵉⵡⴰ
Sousse, Tunisia – ⵙⵓⵙⴰ / Susa
Tamanrasset, Algeria – ⵜⴰⵎⴰⵏⵖⴰⵙⴻⵜ
Tangier, Morocco – ⵟⴰⵏⴶⴰ / Tanja
Timbuktu, Mali – ⵝⵓⵎⴱⵓⴽⵜⵓ
Tindouf, Algeria – ⵜⵉⵏⴷⵓⴼ / Tinduf
Toubkal (Morocco) – ⵜⵓⴱⵇⴰⵍ / Tubqal
Tripoli, Libya – ⵟⵔⴰⴱⵍⵙ / Ṭrables
Tunis, Tunisia – ⵜⵓⵏⵙ / Tunes

Map: Jordan Engel. As always, the Decolonial Atlas’ original media can be reused under the Decolonial Media License 0.1.



  1. Annaba=buna
    tindouf=tin uDuf
    nouakchott=anu ukccuD (puit de bois)


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