Shilha people

(Redirected from Chleuh)

The Shilha people (Berber languages: ⵉⵛⵍⵃⵉⵢⵏ, Arabic: الشلوح), or Ishelhien, are a Berber subgroup primarily inhabiting the Anti Atlas, High Atlas, Sous Valley, and Soussi coastal regions of Morocco.[4][5]

Shilha people
Flag of Almohad Dynasty (1147-1269).svg
Flag associated with the Shilha people
COLLECTIE TROPENMUSEUM Berbervrouw in feestkledij uit Tafraoute Zuid-Marokko TMnr 60033850.jpg
Berber woman from Tafraout, South-Morocco.
Regions with significant populations
Atlas Mountains, Sous Valley, Morocco
Shilha, Moroccan Arabic
Sunni Islam
Related ethnic groups
other Berbers


The Shilha people traditionally call themselves ishelhien. This endonym is rendered as les Chleuh in French.[6] The Ishelhien are also known as Shluh and Schlöh.[4] Among Arabic speakers, Chleuh serves as an appellation for Berbers generally, although Imazighen is the proper Berber self-name for Berbers as a whole.[7]

A Shilha woman from Tafraout, Morocco

The Shilha people live mainly in Morocco's southern Atlantic coast, the High Atlas Mountains, the Anti Atlas mountains, and the Sous Valley.[4] They are of Berber origin, which along with the Berber people, includes other ethnic subgroups such as the Tuareg, Rif, Kabyle, Shawia and Guanche.[8] The Shilha people are a part of Morocco's Berber-speaking community, and the southernmost residing Berber population.[9][10]


A traditional Shilha dowry item

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.[11] 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.[12]

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 in Algeria to Berber territory during the 1980s, the Berbers sought to reaffirm their Berber roots.


A Shilha family

The Ishelhien mainly live in Morocco's Atlas Mountains and Sous Valley. Traditionally, they are farmers who also keep herds.[13] Some are semi-nomadic, growing crops during the season when water is available, and moving with their herds during the dry season.[4]

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.[14]


The Ishelhien speak Tashelhit, a Berber language. It belongs to the Berber branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.[7][15] Their language is sometimes referred to as Sous-Berber.[16][17]

As of 2014, there were around 4.7 million Shilha speakers, constituting 14.1% of the Moroccan population.[18]

Tashelhit differs considerably from some other Berber languages, such as those spoken by the Tuareg.[19]


Shilha speakers usually refer to their language as Taclḥit,[20] (in Tifinagh script: ⵜⴰⵛⵍⵃⵉⵜ);[21]. This name is morphologically a feminine noun, derived from masculine Aclḥiy "male speaker of Shilha".[22]

The origin of the names Aclḥiy and Taclḥiyt is still unknown. The first appearance of this name in a western printed source is found in Mármol's Descripcion general de Affrica (1573, part I, book I, chapter XXXIII):

...y entre los Numidas, y Getulos dela parte occidental de Affrica se habla Berberisco cerrado, y alli llaman esta lengua, Xilha, y Tamazegt, q̃ son nõbres muy antiguos.

"...and among the Numidians and Getulians of the western part of Afri-ca, they speak Berber with marked local features,[23] and there they call this language Xilha [ʃilħa] and Tamazegt [tamaziɣt], which are very old names."

Now it is used as an endonym among Shilha speakers. Some people and sources say that it is exonymic in origin, as the nominal stem šlḥ goes back to the Arabic noun šilḥ "bandit" (plural šulūḥ).[24] But this meaning is only present in the eastern dialects of Arabic; it does not exist in Maghreb dialects, and this is the weakness of this thesis. Also, the majority of those who tried to search for the etymology of the word used foreign-language dictionaries, rather it was supposed to search for the relevant language first. This is mainly due to the fact that the proponents of this hypothesis were not Shilha speakers.[25]

There are a lot of attempts to explain this name based on the language of Tachelhit. The most logical one of them is by the writer Mohammed Akdim, who emphasized in one of his contributions, that the name Shluh, in fact, is the original name given by the original inhabitants of Morocco, Masmouda in the High Atlas and the possessions of Marrakesh, Souss and the Anti-Atlas On themselves. In Shilha, the verb Ishlh means "to settle down, reside and live", which indicates that the name Shluh means "settled and settled residents or settled residents".[26] He also added that there is no meaning and no use in resorting to searching for the significance of the word shalh and shluh in other languages, which is not crippling. As for going to its interpretation and explanation in the Arabic language, this is the height of linguistic prejudice in the right of the Amazigh.[27]

People of Shilha descentEdit

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit


  1. ^ Project, Joshua. "Berber, Southern Shilha in Morocco". Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  2. ^ "RGPH 2014". Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  3. ^ "Rapport du Comité consultatif pour la promotion des langues régionales et de la pluralité linguistique interne (2013)". (in French). Retrieved 2022-05-31.
  4. ^ a b c d Wolfgang Weissleder (1978). The Nomadic Alternative: Modes and Models of Interaction in the African-Asian Deserts and Steppes. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-3-11-081023-3.
  5. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 2008, Shluh.
  6. ^ Dalby, Andrew (2015). Dictionary of Languages: The definitive reference to more than 400 languages. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 614. ISBN 978-1408102145. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  7. ^ a b John A. Shoup (2011). Ethnic Groups of Africa and the Middle East: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 53–54. ISBN 978-1-59884-362-0.
  8. ^ Marian Aguiar (2010). Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (ed.). Encyclopedia of Africa. Oxford University Press. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-19-533770-9.
  9. ^ James Stuart Olson (1996). The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Greenwood. p. 91. ISBN 978-0-313-27918-8.
  10. ^ Marian Aguiar (2010). Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (ed.). Encyclopedia of Africa. Oxford University Press. pp. 106–107. ISBN 978-0-19-533770-9.
  11. ^ James B. Minahan (2016). Encyclopedia of Stateless Nations: Ethnic and National Groups around the World, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 378–379. ISBN 978-1-61069-954-9.
  12. ^ Syed Farid Alatas (2005). Applying Ibn Khaldūn: The Recovery of a Lost Tradition in Sociology. Routledge. p. 82. ISBN 1317594002.
  13. ^ James Stuart Olson (1996). The Peoples of Africa: An Ethnohistorical Dictionary. Greenwood. p. 523. ISBN 978-0-313-27918-8.
  14. ^ George Peter Murdock (15 October 1965). Culture and Society: Twenty-Four Essays. University of Pittsburgh Press. pp. 343–344. ISBN 978-0-8229-7406-2.
  15. ^ Tachelhit, Ethnologue (2007)
  16. ^ Maarten Kossmann (2013). The Arabic Influence on Northern Berber. BRILL Academic. pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-90-04-25309-4.
  17. ^ MG Kossmann; HJ Stroomer (1997). Alan S Kaye (ed.). Phonologies of Asia and Africa: Including the Caucasus. Eisenbrauns. pp. 461–462. ISBN 978-1-57506-019-4.
  18. ^ Haut commissariat au Plan, Moroccan Kingdom, Haut commissariat au Plan. "Recensement général de la Maroc". HCP (in French). Haut commissariat du Plan. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  19. ^ Joseph R. Applegate (1957), Berber Studies I: Shilha, Middle East Journal, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Summer, 1957), pages 324-327
  20. ^ El Mountassir (2017:167), Justinard (1914:2), Destaing (1920:166), Galand (1988, 1.14).
  21. ^ "Dictionnaire Général de la Langue Amazighe Informatisé". Royal Institute of Amazigh Culture. Retrieved 2020-12-28.
  22. ^ In most of its usages, Aclḥiy simply means "a speaker of Shilha". It is not known whether children of Shilha speakers in the migrant communities who have not acquired an active knowledge of the language still identify themselves as Aclḥiy. There is also an ethnic (racial) dimension to the term: white native speakers of Shilha generally refer to black native speakers (the modern descendants of liberated slaves) with the term asuqqiy, a pejorative term derived from Arabic suq "market" (where slaves were bought and sold). The literature offers no information on the self-designation of black speakers.
  23. ^ Cerrado: Dicho del acento o de la pronunciación: Que presenta rasgos locales muy marcados (Diccionario de la lengua española, Real Academia Española.
  24. ^ Stumme (1899:3); see also Dozy, R. (1881), Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes, Leyde: Brill, p. I:781, shilḥ, plural shulūḥ "voleur, brigand".
  25. ^ (ar) Maghrebvoices - Why do the Berbers of Morocco refuse to call them "Shluh"?
  26. ^ (ar) - Shluh, Tashelhit, Masmouda and Masamida"
  27. ^ (ar) Maghrebvoices - Why do the Berbers of Morocco refuse to call them "Shluh"?

External linksEdit