Libyan People

 
     
 

 

Libyan People

قبائل ليبيا

Long Live Livya

 

 

Introduction:

Libyan on a horse

The Libyans are mostly friendly people, regardless of their ethnic background, colour or social status. They respect privacy wholeheartedly and generally will not hassle foreign visitors and guests as is the custom nearby. The Libyan population is estimated at over 5 million people, plus under 1.5 million migrants, giving a total of 6.5 million people approximately. The Arabs are the majority inhabitants of today's Libya, who brought Islam to the region when they first arrived from Arabia during the seventh century AD. Recent genetic studies however say more than 90% of Arabs in Libya (and in North Africa overall) are Arabised Berbers. For example, many of the inhabitants of Benghazi, Mesratha and Zintan are Arabised Berbers - that is Berbers who adopted the Arab tongue. During the eleventh century a political conflict broke out between the ruling dynasties of turbulent Egypt, leading to Bani Hilal and Bani Salim tribes being recalled from the Arabian Peninsula; and it is these two tribes that are originally Arab tribes brought from Arabia to assist the Fatimid.

After nearly three centuries of wars, on and off, the Berbers succeeded in maintaining some form of independence from the sultans of the Middle East; leading to the Berber dynasties to remain very powerful down to the 16th century – after which they began to decline. Combined with the arrival of Turkish pashas and subsequently their European rivals, the 'official' Arabisation of the various Berber confederacies and cities began to take visible shape. It was reported that Europeans first arrived as explorers, mapping the tribes and the rich-resources of the continent, then as colonisers, dividing Africa by imposing political borders now we know as countries, without regard for the ethnic integrity of the local tribes. Followed by the creation of  'Arab Nationalism', 'The Arab World', and now 'The Arab Spring' – yet again in total violation of the existence of the various indigenous peoples of the region; while at the same time neglecting and even destroying the Berber attempts to form independent republics, such as the brutally-crushed Rif Republic of Morocco in 1923; the destroyed Tripolitanian Republic in 1918; and most recently Berber Azawad in 2012, which the UN once more failed to recognise.

The major Arab centres of today's Libya include Tripoli, Benghazi, Misurata, Zawiya, Sabratha, Khoms, Albayda, Darna, Tobruk and other smaller villages and settlements along the coast and in the interior. After the installation of Gaddafi in 1969 the arabisation of the Sahara was intensified by turning Sabha the new capital of Fezzan. Nafousa Mountain in the west is the stronghold of the various Berber tribes, to the extent it was also known as the Berber Mountain, before it was lately renamed "The Western Mountain" by the ousted Colonel.

The oasis of Zuwarah in the western coast, the oases of Jalu and Awjla in eastern Libya, and the oasis of Ghadames at the edge of the Sahara are also Berber settlements; while the Sahara herself is still the homeland of the various Berber Tuareg confederacies, as they were for thousands of years the dignified keepers of the largest desert in the world – the empire without borders; before they were dispersed and split by outsiders into so many "countries", without regard for their ethnic integrity or nobel dignity. The Berber Tuareg confederacies have always resisted the imposed borders to desecrate and divide their sacred homeland, just as they still do today.

The Tebo, whom were said to be Berbers from the Lemta tribe (by al-Yaqubi), or part of the Berber Sanhaja group (by Agostini), are without a doubt native to the region, especially to the Tibesti Mountain, whence the name Tibesti itself. Likewise the Berbers, they have been persecuted by the previous regimes of Libya, just as today their homes were shelled by outlaws and sponsored rebels, with various reports of rockets punching through the roofs of their homes while women & children still asleep. 

 

Tribal Differences Versus War:

There are at least 140 known tribal networks in Libya, many of which subdivide into several branches and clans. Most Libyan surnames carry the name of the tribe which they represent, and therefore one can easily identify a person's tribe simply by knowing his surname. For example, colonel Gaddafi comes from the Gaddadfa tribe – an Arabised Berber tribe of the ancient Greater Syrtis region, now known as Sirte or Sert.

In Zuwarah the tribal name is also assigned to the street in which the tribe exclusively lives. Such names were officially replaced by the ousted colonel with Arab names, including the name of Zuwarah itself, but Zuwarans still to this day use the ancient names they learnt by heart.

The complex tribal system in Libya is still a fundamental part of the Libyan society, more than anywhere else. But the native philosophy behind this structure (resulting from the ancient egalitarian system) has been most often misunderstood by outsiders, misrepresented in a way to illustrate a conflicting nature of the Libyan society, and even employed to achieve 'political objectives'.

For example, Enrico De Agostini's work, The Inhabitants of Libya – more or less the bible of Libyan tribes, was said to have been motivated by "colonial" need to study the tribal components of the country the Italians initially failed to subjugate, after their disastrous defeats to contain the Libyan resistance, led by Barouni, Swayhli and Mokhtar among other martyrs; in the same way many of the early Arab sources of Berber history were mainly written from nationalist perspective; and in the same way many early European explorers and scholars wrote others' history to serve supremacy.

Nearly one hundred years later, almost an identical need arose from the dead after the February 2011 wars, when media outlets and political experts Suddenly developed the urge to chat about the complex tribal system of Libya, only to fall silent afterwards, once again. See you next generation.

 

Egalitarianism:

The Berbers' traditional, governmental system follows egalitarian principles. The egalitarian system, recently noted by New Scientist (28 July 2012), is based on tribes consulting and cooperating with each other in a tribal council, to achieve best survival for the whole group; as they have been for tens of thousand of years without any major problems but "foreign invasions" and nature's famines.

One of the most fascinating aspects of egalitarianism is that the system eliminates poverty, and prevents the emergence of the super rich and the super powerful in the society, simply because the egalitarian constitution (the 'customary laws' of the tribal society) ensures sharing the harvest of nature amongst all the members of the society – not just the elite 1%.

Each tribe has a representative tribal leader at the Tribal Council – today's divided congress. The egalitarian tribal council of the elders is made of both female and male transparent members of the society who could lead by example. They have no complicated electoral policies nor poverty. They effect peaceful solutions via 'diligent dialogue' and 'logos', at the tribal council, primarily to avoid conflict. They have learnt the hard way how to live with nature and the harsh conditions of the environment. It is often argued that hunger and wars create the right environment for corruption and crime to thrive.

In traditional society sharing between the 100 per cent is what keeps the society strong and peaceful. For example, the Berbers provide grain and fruits during harvest for the poor families of the tribe and of the society overall. The persecuted Berbers of Libya to-this-day still perform what they call "Taqessamit" – a festive occasion in which members of the tribe "get together" in the spring to provide equal portions of meat for the poor families of the society – to feed their hungry children. [These portions of meat were cut into long strips, sprinkled with pepper and salt, and dried in the sun, before they were cut into small cubes, fried in oil, and stored in clay jars, to use throughout the year for modest use.] This is what tribes used to do, before they found themselves in conflict with each other and awesome invaders.

Due to the historical onslaught of foreign invasions on indigenous territories from around the world, the egalitarian system is now on the brink of extinction. Scientists say one language goes extinct every single week, of the year, in this modern age of technology; often due to government open neglect.

Preserving World Heritage sites by protecting the stone idols of the archaeological wonder is not what indigenous peoples want. It is their culture and identity that are in great danger, they say, from the civilised world of modernity, painful poverty, and dangerously never-ending wars.

According to one (improvised) egalitarian tale, a dying father gathers his sons and daughters around his death-bed, and whispers:- take one stick and snap it, you will see the result; do the same to a "bundle of sticks", and you will realise nothing but pure strength.

 

The Components of The Tribal World:

  • Family: the smallest unit in the tribe is the family, comprising the mother (the head of the family in matriarchal societies); the father; and their children.

  • Clan: a group of families relating to one ancestor, identified by the common 'surname', and usually living together in one location or one street. Different clans can also form larger unions of clans linked by relation, benefit, marriage or proximity.

  • Tribe: is the name given to the various clans and the clan groups forming one large tribe.  Getting together in larger groups strengthens the sociopolitical ties between the members of the group and the member-groups to form a stronger alliance – the egalitarian 'stick-bundle' principle (as defined above).

  • Society: an exotic collection of tribes living together in one settlement, and now composed of tribes from across the country. Ice ages, famines, commerce, migrations, invasions, corrupt governments, wars, poverty, refugee crises, curiosity to explore, and "chasing the get-rich dream" have all contributed to the emergence of the 'global society' in the modern world.

  • Human Family: a name given by scientists to all the tribes of the world, descending from one single tribal ancestor, they called 'African Eve', who lived in Africa 100,000 years ago. We are all 'one family', destined to build a happy world if we stay united, help each other, and share the bur-den.

 

 

Sources:

The following lists of Libyan Tribes were compiled from a number of sources including "Sukkan Kibya" (سكان ليبيا : Libya's Inhabitants), translated by Khalifa Mohammed Tillisi, خليفة محمد التليسي, 1975, and based on the two works written by the Italian colonel Enrico De Agostini: Popolazione della Tripolitania (1917), and Popolazione della Cirenaica (1923). Agostini's work was carried out by Libyans, with Agostini sponsoring, managing and editing the project as per "house rules". Agostini made a number of claims and errors that are not easy to explain, and some of his tribes are not in agreement with those listed by his source: Ibn Khaldun. The second source is "Sukkan T'arabulus Algharb" by Ismaeil Kamali (translated by Hasan Alhadi Ben Younis), 1997. The third source is Oric Bates' Eastern Libyans (1919), considered by many to be the bible of ancient Berber tribes of Libya. The fourth source is "Kitābu l-ʻibār", by Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406 AD), the ultimate source of almost all other works exploring the structure of North African tribes. However, Ibn Khaldun's widely-quoted Berber ancestors and similar other genealogies are imaginary and usually eponymous ancestors.

 

The Arab Tribes of Libya:

The true Arab tribes of Libya are those who descended from Bani Hilal and Bani Salim tribes, who were brought from Arabia (via Egypt) by the Fatimid rulers in the 10th century to assist in containing the Berber resistance. Unlike the earlier arrivals, these arrived with their families.

Banu Hilal: this group of Arab tribes was divided into three original branches and two mixed branches:

  1. Alathbej: (original branch: the first group to arrive in 1051 AD; mostly found in middle Algeria and to a lesser extent in the Far Maghreb, with some remaining in Tripolitania, near Msellata and Zliten).

    • Bani Darid:
      • Awlad A'at'iyya:
        • Awlad Mbarek
        • Awlad Wishah'
      • Awlad Srour
      • Awlad Jaralla:
        • Awlad A'enan
      • Awlad Touba
    • Bani Kerfa:
      • Banu Mh'ammed
      • Awlad Shbib
      • Awlad S'bih'
    • Bani A'yad':
      • Almhaya:
        • Awlad Difel
        • Alzber
      • Almortafia':
        • Awlad Dinar
        • Awlad H'nash
        • Awlad A'ebdous
      • Alkhraj:
        • Awlad Zayed
      • Awlad S'akher
      • Awlad Rah'ma
    • Banu Lat'if:
      • Awlad Keslan
      • Dawi Met'ref
      • Dawi Abi Aljalil
      • Dawi Jalal
      • Alleqmana:
        • Awlad Jarir
        • Banu Nazar
    • Ad'ah'h'ak:
      • Banu Kalb Ben Mneea'
      • Banu Abi A't'iyya
    • Ala'mour:
      • Banu A'ebdalla:
        • Awlad Fares
        • Awlad A'aziz
        • Awlad Mad'i
        • Awlad Shuker
        • Awlad Yah'ya
        • Awlad Zekri



  2. Banu Riyah (original branch: the first group to arrive 1051 AD; a small percentage of these are found along the Tunisian coast, and the larger group [Addawwadah] are found in eastern Algeria; with some Berberised in the Far Maghreb; while others settled in Libya, mainly in Soukna, Zliten, Msellata, Mesratha, Zawiya, Tarhouna and Gheryan):

    • Banu Merdas:
      • Banu dawed (Edewwada):
        • Banu Masoud:
          • Awald Sba':
            • Awald Mh'emmed
            • Awlad Shabel
            • Awlad Yah'ya
        • Banu A'saker
        • Banu Rezq
        • Banu ghrara
      • Banu D'enber
      • Banu Msellem:
        • Awlad J'ma'a
      • Banu A'amer:
        • Banu Mousa
        • Banu Jaber
        • Banu Soudan
        • Banu Mashhour
        • Banu Mh'emmed
      • Banu A'li:
        • Banu Fadegh
        • Banu Dehman
      • Banu Sa'id:
        • Awlad Yousef
        • Awlad A'isa
        • Almkhadma
        • Alghyouth
        • Alfujour
      • Banu Alakhd'ar:
        • Awlad Tamer
        • Banu Zyada


  3. Bani Zoghba (original branch: the second group to arrive a few years later; after settling in Tripolitania and Gabes, they were expelled by Banu Salim to the eastern parts of Algeria, and currently they are found between Bjaya and Telmsan):

    • Banu Yazid:
      • Banu H'emyan
      • Banu Jwab
      • Banu Kerz
      • Banu Mousa
      • Banu Merba'
      • Banu Khshin
      • Awlad Lah'eq
      • Awlad Ma'afi
      • Banu Sea'd:
        • Banu Mad'i
        • Banu Mans'or
        • Bani Za'li:
          • Banu Rayan
    • Banu H's'in:
      • Banu Jendel:
        • Awlad S'a'ed
        • Awlad Khlifa
        • Awlad Khesha'a
      • Banu Khrash:
        • Awlad Masoud:
          • Awlad Reh'ab
        • Awlad Faraj:
          • Banu Khlifa
        • Awlad T'arif:
          • Alma'abda
        • Awlad A'rif
    • Banu Malek:
      • Banu Sweed:
        • Banu Flita
        • Banu Shbaba
        • Banu Mqarrer:
          • Banu Slima
          • Banu Abi Rah'ma
          • Banu Abi Kamel
          • Banu H'emdan:
            • Awlad A'isa
            • Banu Almahdi
            • Banu A't'iya
            • Banu T'arad
          • Banu Ghafeer
          • Banu Shafea'
          • Banu Malef
          • Banu Hebra
      • Banu Alh'arth:
        • Ala'et't'af:
          • Banu Ya'qoub
        • Adyalem:
          • Banu Zyada
          • Adhabka
          • Banu Nawal
          • Banu A'ekerma
        • Banu Ghrib:
          • Awlad Bani Mneea'
          • Awlad Yousef
    • Banu A'amer:
      • Banu Ya'qoub
      • Banu H'meed:
        • Banu A'beedalla:
          • Banu H'ijaz:
            • Banu Wellad
            • Banu Rebab
            • Awlad Ma'ref
          • Banu A'qil
          • Banu Meh'rez
      • Banu Shafea':
        • Banu Shqara
        • Banu met'ref
    • Banu A'erwa:
      • Alnad'er:
        • Awlad Khlifa
        • Alkhmamna
        • Banu Sharia
        • Alsh'awi
        • Dawi Ziyan
        • Awlad Sliman
      • Banu Khmis:
        • Banu A'beedalla
        • Banu Fadegh:
          • Banu Nael
          • Banu Jaber
        • Banu Yaqd'an:
          • Awlad A'bad


  4. Banu Jashem (mixed branch: the second group to arrive a few years after the first group; found in the Far Maghreb):

    • Bani Almashfeq
    • Bani Sefyan:
      • Banu Jermoun
      • Bani Kanoun
      • Bani Alh'erth
      • Alklaba

  5. Alma'qel (mixed branch: arrived in a later period, with other small tribes, including Ou'dwan, Throud, Banu Ghethfan, and Fzarah; mainly found by the western borders of Algeria and southern Morocco):

    • Banu Sajeer:
      • Dawi A'beedalla:
        • Alhaddaj:
          • Awlad Ya'qoub
          • Awlad Menad
          • Awlad Fakroun
        • Alkharaj:
          • Awlad A'ebalmalik
          • Awlad A'isa
          • Aja'awna
          • Banu Ghasil
      • Banu Tha'lab:
        • Awlad Seba':
          • Almat'arfa
          • Almahaya
        • Awlad H'anish
    • Banu Mh'emmed:
      • Banu Mokhtar:
        • Dawi H'esan:
          • Awlad Abi Alkhalil
        • Alshabanat
        • Alrqit'at'
        • Ajyahna
        • Awlad Aboriyya
      • Dawi Mans'or:
        • Awlad H'sin
        • Awlad Abi Alh'osayn
        • Awlad O'emran
        • Awlad menba


Bani Salim
: the second group began to arrive around 1066 AD. The group was divided into five branches:

  1. Bani Ou'f (after their arrival in Cyrenaica, they moved to eastern Tripolitania):
    • Banu A'ellaq:
      • Banu Yah'ya:
        • Alka'oub:
          • Banu Shih'a
          • Banu T'aher
          • Banu Kathir
          • Awlad Abi Allayel
          • Awlad Mhalhel
          • Awlad S'oula
          • Awlad H'emza
          • Awlad T'aleb
          • Awlad Alh'aj
          • Awlad Ah'med
      • Banu H'as'en:
        • Banu A'li:
          • Alh'ad'ra
          • Almaqa'ed
          • Alrejlan
          • Aljmia'at
          • Alh'emer
          • Almsabha
          • Aal H'sin
          • Banu H'ejri
          • Awlad Mara'a
        • Banu H'kim
          • Banu Wael
          • Banu T'roud
          • Banu T'arif:
            • Awlad Jaber
            • Alshara'ba
            • Awlad Na'eer
            • Awlad Jrin
            • Awlad Zayed
          • Banu Nameer:
            • Banu Haykel:
              • Awlad Qaed
              • Awlad Zemam
              • Alfezyat
              • Awlad Myas
            • Banu Ah'med:
              • Banu Mh'emmed
              • Albt'in

  2. Banu Debbab (they moved to eastern Tripolitania):

    • Eastern Arabs (east of Tripoli, to Sirte):

      • Awlad Sulayman:
        • Ashridat
        • Almayaysa
        • Azkari
        • Alhaiwat
        • Ajbayer

      • Awlad Salem (Assawalim):
        • Ala'lawna
        • Ala'maem
        • Alah'amid
        • Alma'dan
        • Alh'asoun
        • Ala'badlah
        • Almaraziq

    • Western Arabs (west of Tripoli, to the Tunisian border):

      • Annwayel
      • Almahamid:
        • Eastern Mah'amid
        • Western Mah'amid
      • Aljawari:
        • Albla'zah
        • Arqia'at
        • Aljawari

  3. Banu Zogheb (they moved to eastern Tripolitania, Aljufra and then Fezzan):

    • Almgarh'a
    • Alh'asawna
    • Azwayed
    • Alh'ethman
    • Alqwayed


  4. Banu Lebid (stayed in Cyrenaica):
    • Awlad Salem:
      • Albahja
      • Alafrad
      • Alhnadi
    • Awlad Mqeddem:
      • Awlad Alturkiyya
      • Awlad Qaed


  5. Banu Hayb (stayed in Cyrenaica):
    • Assa'di: (sons of  the Arab Deab Abi Allayel Asselmi from his Berber Zenati wife Sa'da Bent Khlifha):
      • Slam:
        • Alhanadi
        • Bou-A'ouna
        • Albahja
      • A'qar:
        • Ali (Awlad Ali)
        • Mh'areb (H'arb):
          • Alh'arabi:
            • A'bid:
              • Ala'bidat (al-Obeidi, the tribe of Abdul Fattah Younis)
            • H'was:
              • Alh'asa
            • Fayed:
              • Awlad Fayed
            • H'emed:
              • Awlad H'emed
              • Albara'isah
            • Idris:
              • Addersah
      • Barghouth:
        • Shiboun:
          • A'arif Ala'urfah
          • A'bid Ala'bid
        • Fayed:
          • Alfawayed
          • Arrimah'
        • Jibrin:
          • Ajbarnah:
            • H'emed:
              • H'emzah > Aljawari
              • Jaber > Almajaberah
            • O'ulia Ala'mamyah:
              • Mousa Alabah' > Ala'waqir
              • A'bd Addayem > Almagharba
              • A'arib > Ala'aribat


Current Arab Tribes of Libya:

This list includes only the main Arab tribes of today's Libya, and in no way is complete.

  • Abaydat.
  • Assa'adi.
  • Awlad Busayf.
  • Awlad Sulayman.
  • Bara'sa.
  • Bla'za.
  • Drasa.
  • Farjan.
  • Fawakhir.
  • Haraba.
  • Hasawna.
  • Gemmata.
  • Jwari.
  • Kargala.
  • Kawar.
  • Magharba.
  • Magarha.
  • Mahamid.
  • Majabra.
  • Manfa.
  • Masamir.
  • Mashashya.
  • Maslata.
  • Masrata.
  • Nwayel.
  • Qaddafa, Gaddadfa (al-Qaddafi's tribe).
  • Qawasim.
  • Ramla.
  • Rhibat.
  • Riyyah.
  • Rujban.
  • Sia'an.
  • Silin.
  • Tawajeer.
  • Waqir.
  • Werfella.
  • Zzintan.
  • Zzuwaid.
  • Zzuwayya, Zawiya, Zwai.

 

 

 

 

 

The Berber Tribal Groups of Libya:

 

tuareg family

The Berbers are the indigenous inhabitants of Libya and the Sahara. There are numerous Berber tribes found in East Libya, West Libya, and across the entire Sahara desert, where they have been since the beginning of civilisation. Their number is difficult to ascertain, since by their nomadic nature the Tuareg of the Sahara were not fully included in any census. However it was widely estimated that the Berbers constitute between 10% and 23% of the population of Libya, and therefore assuming an average of 17% would give just under one million Berbers. Some Berberists noted that the population of the Berbers in 1950s was just under 50%, and that the current drop in percentage is due to government policies,  like the sudden increase of Arab nationalities granted by both King Idris and Gaddafi to large numbers of Tunisians, Egyptians and other (so-called) "returned Libyans" - just as today's transitional rulers reportedly are doing.

Historical records state that the Libyan population had decreased to 523,176 people around 1911, down from 757,000 people in 1840s. Nearly 100,000 people died in Cyrenaica alone during the colonial wars. In 1968 the Libyan population reached 2 millions. But then after Gaddafi's 1969 the Libyan population rose sharply to 5 millions! The new transitional leaders now say the population of Libya is 6 millions. There is no doubt that a proper and transparent census is required.

In 2013, the transitional Civil Status Authority was reported by [Libya Herald, article: /2013/06/06/new-family-allowance-announced/] to have estimated the number of Libyans under the age of 18 at around 4.35 million teenagers, out of whom 2.85 million are males, and 1.5 million are females. Such figures do not tally with reality - inconceivably making more than 80% of Libyans teenagers, let alone mostly males. The reported number of females in Libya was more than males by around 1% (when Gaddafi arrived).

Closing down hospitals in Berber areas, to force Berber women give birth in nearby Arab areas, had also decreased the official (or registered) number of Berbers in Libya, while at the same time increased the Arabs' number with Berber "identities". [Similarly, the Berbers of Morocco were until recently around 80%, before they began their gradual descent (in records) to 70%, 60%, 50%, and now down to 40% -- officially making the majority a minority in their own home?]

 

The Berber Tribes According to The Genealogies of Ibn Khaldun:

Ibn Khaldun divides the Berber tribes into two major groups, each of which subdivided into further "branches": the 'Beranes' and 'Madghis' (or Botr), both of whom were descended from 'Berr' or 'Berber' (vol. 7, p.3), who descended from the ancestor 'Mazigh' (vol. 6, p. 97) and/or ancestress Tamazigh(t). This ancestress was hardly mentioned by most of the sources that claimed to study Berber ancestry, and Ibn Khaldun himself does not appear to provide much information about this important ancestress. The following list cannot be considered complete, because Ibn Khaldun most often gives only a few examples for each group or branch, as he often used the word "including" rather than "they are". The other issue with Ibn Khaldun's work is that some of the names of the tribes appear differently from one copy to another, including Arabic, French and English copies, and therefore  the confusion is well entrenched. On the tendency to relate remote ancestry to Asia  Minor, Ibn Khaldun himself makes it clear that people "chose" to relate their origin to Semitic ancestors because Sam had five profits when Ham had none.

 

  • Tamazight-Mazigh:

    1. Beranes:

      • Aurigha: son of ancestress Tes'kee & Bernes:

        • Hawwar, son of Aurigh Ben Bernes; whence Hawwara. Today the Hawwara are found in Morocco, Algeria [Eshawiyya], and in Tripolitania's Zawiya, Janzour, Tripoli, Tajoura, Jfara, Msellata, Mesratha, [Mesrata and Zmoura], Tawergha, Sirte, Yefren, Mizda, Ghadames, Fezzan [including the Hoggar].

          • Hoggar: the Hawwara of the Sahara: the Azger of Tassili n Ajer and the Hoggar.
          • Hawwara (who were from Adas [of Madghis]):
            • Heragha
            • Tarhouna
            • Shtata
            • Endawa
            • Henzouna
            • Awt'it'a
            • S'enbra
          • Melila:
            • Gheryan
            • Wergha
            • Zgara or Zgawa [Azger ?]
            • Mselata
            • Majris

        • Megher:
          • Mawes
          • Zemmour
          • Kiyad (Keba)
          • Seray (Mes'ray)
          • Werjin
          • Mendasa
          • Kerkoura (or Kerkouda)
          • Kehlan:
            • Bani Kesi
            • Wertaket'
            • Lshewa
            • Hiwara

        • Qelden (Felden):
          • Khemas'a (Qems'ana)
          • Wers't'if
          • Byana
          • Bel (?)

        • Meld (or Mender or Lhana)):
          • Melila (?)
          • Wes't'et' (S't'et')
          • Werfel (Werfella)
          • Asil
          • Mesrata


      • A'jisa:

      • Aurba: sons of Awrb Ben Bernes: the tribe of Kusila
        • Bjaya
        • Nfasa
        • Na'ja
        • Zagkouja
        • Mezyata
        • Rghiwa
        • Diqousa

      • Ezdaja: Ibn Khaldoun says many Berber genealogists say Ezdaja tribe is from Zenata, and that Wezdaja is from Hawwara:

        • Banu Mesqen

      • Tes'kee: one of the rare matrilineal ancestors given by Ibn Khaldun and others; daughter of Zh'ik n Madghis. She was mentioned as the mother of Sanhaj, Heskour, Llemt' and Jazoul. The Tuareg of the Sahara still to this day trace their ancestry via a matrilineal naming system, and the Berber nations overall are matriarchal:

        • Sanhaja: one of the largest Berber tribal groups, comprising 70 tribes, and found almost all over North Africa, and according to Ibn Khaldun some say a third of all the Berber nations are Sanhaja. The Sahara is their home; extending six-months walking:

          • Telkana (Telkata)
          • Injfa:
            • Mazourat
            • Slaib
            • Feshtala
            • Melwana

          • Shert'a
          • Lemtouna, in Kakdem:
            • Wertent'eq
            • Zmal
            • S'oulan
            • Nasja

          • Msoufa
          • Kadala
          • Wetrika or Wetriga
          • Nawka or Nawga
          • Zghawa
          • Lemt'a
          • Mendla
          • Warith
          • Yitisen
          • Zenaga: (S'enaka or Zenaka): the 'h' in the name of this Sanhaja group was omitted by Arab writers, who used the form: S'enaka:

        • Heskoura: Ibn Khaldun states that the Heskoura group is the most numerous of all Mes'mouda tribes (see below).
          • Mes't'awa
          • Ghejrama
          • Fet'waka
          • Zemrawa
          • Antifet
          • Nefal
          • Reskount

        • Kezoula:  Ibn Khaldun states that the Kezula, Heskoura and Lemta are the brothers of Sanhaja from their mother: Tes'kee Bint Zh'ik Ben Madghis. The Kezoula live in the Sous region.

        • Lemta:  (Lemt'a): according to one source the Garaments were later subdued by the matrilineal Lemta Berbers before they eventually fused with the aboriginals of the south bank of the Upper Niger; and according to another the Tebu were of Lemta origin:

          • Lemtuna
            • Tuareg
            • Tebu
          • Sdoykesh:
            • Sileen (Silin)
            • Noura
          • Zeken
          • Lekhsa


      • Ketama:  Ketam Ben Bernes:
        • Ghersen:
          • Ms'ala
          • Qelan
          • Mawt'en
          • Ma'ad Bani Ghersen
          • Lahis'a
          • Jimla
          • Msalta
          • Ejana
          • Ghesman
          • Aufas
          • Melousa:
            • Banu Zeldwi

        • Yasouda:
          • Flasa
          • Denhaja
          • Mtousa
          • Werisen

        • Sdoukesh:
          • Silin
          • T'ersoun
          • T'erghyan
          • Moleet
          • Bani Fitna
          • Bani Lmaei
          • Kayara
          • Bani Zeghlan
          • Boe'ra
          • Bani Merwan
          • Warksen
          • Sekral
          • Bani A'yyad


      • Mas'mouda: sons of Mas'moud n Yunes n Berber:

        • Ghemara (Ghumara):
          • H'emid
          • Matyout
          • Nal
          • Eghs'awa
          • Zerwal
          • Mejksa: (tribe of H'a-Meem, prophesied in 313 H near H'ameem Mountain

        • Dern: (the inhabitants of Dern Mountain: أهل جبل درن)
        • Berghwat'a (tribe of T'arif Met'gheri [القائم بدعوة الصفرية] and his son S'aleh' [صالح المؤمنين], who claimed prophesy around 313 H, and fought with his father in the wars. He also claimed to be the Messiah and Jesus' friend.
        • Metwal
        • Hergha
        • Hentata
        • Tinmal (Tinemlel)
        • Kedmuiya
        • Hezerejsa (H'ah'a)
        • Kenfisa:
          • Seksiwa
        • Wazkeet
        • Werika
        • Rekraka
        • Mezmeera
        • Dkala
        • S'eh'sa:
          • Zeken
          • Welkhes'
        • Amadeen:
          • Mesfawa:
            • Deghagha
            • Yut'nan
          • Maghous
        • Maker
        • Ilana (Hilana)




    2. Madghis: (nicknamed Boter): the following tribes were descended from Zh'ik, son of Madghis:

      • Nafousa: one large group of Berber tribes found across Nafousa Mountain, including Ind Zemmour, Ind Meksour and Mat'ous'a; once inhabited the whole region between the sea and the mountain, with ancient Sabratha being one of their important centres -- the coastal capital. After the Arab conflict and the destruction of Sabratha, they retreated to the Nafusa mountain, with some sources say some of them fled to Europe via the seaport to save their lives.

        • Ind Zemmour
        • Ind Meksour (Heksour)
        • Mathousa

      • Adasa: sons of Adas n Zh'ik n Madghis, whose various tribes, Ibn Khaldun says, were included with the Hawwara (Adas' brother):
        • Esfara
        • Endara (Endawa)
        • Hezouna
        • D'erya
        • Herdagha (Heragha)
        • Washtata
        • Terhta (Terhouna)

      • D'ra (D'risa): sons of D'ri n Zh'ik n Madghis; divided into: sons of Tmis'et' and sons of Yah'ya:
        • Tmis'et':
          • Fatin:
            • Medyouna
            • Mghila
            • Met'mat'a
            • Melzouza (Ma'zouza)
            • Meknasa
            • Douna
            • Met'ghra ( أخذ مطغرة هؤلاء برأي الصفرية)
            • Lmaya:
              • Zkoufa
              • Meziza
              • Meliza
              • Medineen
            • S'adina
            • Komiyah:
              • Nedrouma:
                • Nghout'a
                • H'ersa
                • Ferda
                • Hefana
                • Frata
              • S'ghara:
                • Matila
                • Hyasa

              • Ind Yeloul (Banu Yaloul):
                • Hiwara
                • Walgha
                • Wetyout
                • Habiya



        • Yah'ya: Zenata, Semkan and Werst'ef:

          • Zenata: (Jana or Zana Ben Yah'ya): (Ait Zana): one of the biggest groups of D'risa, the tribe of the Berber General Tariq Bin Zeyyad, who invaded Spain, and whence the name Gibraltar (Jabel Tareq). The Zenata include the following tribes:
            • Wersik:
              • Mesaret
              • Reghay (or Tajert)
              • Washroujen (or Resin):
                • Warifen
            • Ferni:
              • Yezmerten
              • Merenjis'a
              • Werkla
              • Nemala (Nemalta)
              • Sbertra

            • Ddiret
              • Jrawa (Graw): the tribe of the Berber General, Priestess and Queen Kahina "Dihya n Tabna n Nighan n Bawra n Mes'eksri n Afred n Aus'ila n Jraw" (Aures Mountain, Algeria). She ruled for 35 years, and lived for 127 years. When the Arabs attempted to attack her kingdom in the mountain, she defeated them and chased them out of Afriqya, and H'essan fled to Barqa (Cyrenaica).

              • Wersik: (Werdiren Ben Wersik):
                • Ansha Banu Ansh:
                  • Berzal
                  • S'eghman
                  • Yes'dourin
                  • Yet'oufet
                • Zakya Ben Wersik: (Ben Yes'liten Ben Mesra Ben Zakya):
                  • Meghraw (Meghrawa):
                    • Yelit
                    • Zendak
                    • Weraq
                    • Wertezmir
                    • Abi Said
                    • Wersifan (Wershfana)
                    • Leghwat'
                    • Reigha
                    • Senjas
                    • Wera

                  • Yefren:
                    • Werkwa
                    • Mernjis'a
                  • Wasin:
                    • Tojeen (Wertajen)
                    • Wet'as
                  • Yernyan:
                    • Wet'at'

                • Demer (Idmer or Ghana):
                  • Gherzoul
                  • Tghouret
                  • Wertatin


          • Semkan:
            both Zwawa & Zwagha, according to Ibn Khaldun, are the sons of Semkan n Yeh'ya n D'ri n Zh'ik n Madghis; close relatives of Zenata (sons of Jawwa [the brother of Semkan]):

            • Zwawa: (Zwaza): Agostini listed this tribe as "Zuwara" and gave the city Zuwarah as one of their regions (p. 27). Agostini made a number of other claims that are not easy to explain (?). But according to his source, which is Ibn Khaldun (vol. 6, p. 128), the Zwawa inhabit the area around Bjaya, between the territories of Katama and Sanhaja. The Zwawa are made of the following tribes:

              • Ind Yejro
              • Ind Manklat
              • Ind Metroun (Yetroun)
              • Ind Mani
              • Ind Bougherdan
              • Ind Touregh
              • Ind Yousef
              • Ind A'isa
              • Ind Sha'ib
              • Ind S'edqa
              • Ind Ghebreen
              • Ind Kesht'oula

            • Zwagha: inhabit the regions around Tripoli, Demer Mountain, near Qest'entinah, and also near Fes. If we consider the change of /gh/ to /ra/, and vice versa, then it is more probable that the name Zwara (Zuwarah) is more related to Zwagha than to Zwawa.  One of the old names of nearby Sabratha is Zwagha, which also appeared as Sabra in other sources:

              • Demer Ben Zwagh
              • Ind Wat'il Ben Zh'ik Ben Zwagh
              • Ind Majer (or Makher) Ben Tifoun Ben Zwagha


          • Werst'ef:
            the brother of Semkan n Yeh'ya; found along Wadi Malwiya from Sejelmasa to the sea, including Taza and Tasoul:

            • Meknasa:
              • Wous'olat (S'oulat)
              • Bouh'ab (Banu H'awwat)
              • Werflas
              • Werdnous (Waridous)
              • Qis'ara (Qens'ara)
              • Neba'a
              • Werqt'na (Werniqa)

            • Wertnaja:
                • Sederja
                • Meksa
                • Mt'asa (Bt'alsa)
                • Kerst'a (Kernit'a)
                • Henat'a
                • Foulala

            • Awkta (or Mekna):
              • D'ert'in (Yes'elten)
              • Foulalin (Toulalin)
              • Yizeen (Tereen)
              • Jereen (Jerten)
              • Boughal  (Foughal)


      • Lewwa (Banu Lewwa > Lewwa-ta): 'Banu' is the Arabic equivalent of Tamazight 'Ait': Ait-Lewwa, Lewwata. Some sources derive the names "Libya" and "Lubda" (Leptis Magna) from this tribe's name.

        • Elder Lewwa:

          • Nefzawa: sons of Tet'oufet (Yet'oufet) son of Nefzaw son of Lewwa the Elder: one of the oldest Lewwa branches, once inhabited Shat Aljarid in Tunisia:
            • Ghessasa
            • Mernisa
            • Zehila (Zejala)
            • Sumata
            • Zatima
            • Mjerra
            • Wersif
              • Meklata:
                • Ind Weryaghel
                • Keznaya
                • Ind Yes'ltin
                • Ind Dimar
                • Rihoun
                • Ind Srayen

            • Welhas'a:
              • Weretdin 
              • Werfjouma


        • Young Lewwa:

          • Lewwata: sons of Young Lewwa son of Elder Lewwa son of Zh'ik. Ibn Khaldun says Young Lewwa is Nefzawa, and that the Berbers add the 'a' and 't' to form the plural, and when the name was Arabised the Arabs used the plural for singular and then added the 'h' of Arabic plural. Thus Lewwata is Ait-Lewwa (or Atlewwa) in Tamazight; similarly Atlellou, Atwilloul, Tellil:

            • Serdata n Nit'et'
            • A'rouza (or A'zouza) n Mas'let
            • Mezata: Weddan, Soukna, the Gulf of Syrtis (Sirte):
              • Mlayen (Blayen)
              • Merna (Qerna)
              • Mah'ih'a (Majija)
              • Dekma
              • H'emra
              • Madouna



*  *  *

 

The Berbers of Today's Libya can be subdivided into three tribal groups:

(1) - The Western Berbers:

Zuwarah: (Ait Willoul):

(Zuwarah): a general name for a group of tribes inhabiting the coastal city of Zuwarah. According to a study published in 1946, Zuwarah was the largest region in the whole of Tripolitania: an estimated one thousand and three hundred and thirteen square miles (1,313). Zwara is both: a name of a 'place' and the name of the 'tribe' inhabiting the place. In addition to 'surnames', each tribal name in Zuwarah is given to the area or the street in which the tribe lives.  For example, asqaq n ind gezzoul ('Leqsar Street') is exclusively dominated by Legsar tribe. After the arrival of Gaddafi and his Arabisation program, many of these streets were assigned Arabic names, like Jamal Abdul Naser St., for example. According to Agostini, Around 1909 the tribes of Zuwara were comprised of ten tribes, divided into two groups: ibeh'reyyen and iqebliyyen:

Ibeh'reyyen:

  • Ind A'ettoush:
    • Ind Zayed
    • Ind Jerrafa
    • Ind Ben A'ribi
    • Ind Elh'aj
    • Ind A'ebdeslam

  • Ind A'isa: (related to Ind A'ettoush):
    • Ind Bekka
    • Ind Bodeeb
    • Ind Telloua'
    • Ind Qerri
    • Ind Msheyyea'
    • Ind Beqqoush
    • Ind Fd'is'

  • Atlellou:
    • Ind Bousahmeen
    • Ind A'eshshini
    • Ind Lqeffaz
    • Ind Beshwashi

  • Ind Yedris:
    • Ind Elh'aj
    • Ind Remdan
    • Ind A'ebdla'zeez

  • Ind Debbab:
    • Ind Mehdi
    • Ind A'ashour
    • Ind Zayed
    • Ind Elh'aj

Iqebleyyen:

  • Ind Zeffour:
    • Ind Gendouz
    • Ind H'elleb
    • Ind Zriba
    • Ind Berk'a
    • Ind Salem Ben A'li

  • Ind Gezzoul:
    • Ind Ma'emmer
    • Ind Ghriba
    • Ind Saa'eed
    • Ind Khlifa
    • Ind Yah'ya
    • Ind Nannees

  • Ind Zayed:
    • Ind A'emrani
    • Ind Boukria'at
    • Ind Mald'i
    • Ind Bousa'oud
    • Ind H'sayri

  • Ind Mensour:
    • Ind Sea'id
    • Ind Elh'aj Mousa
    • Ind A'ebdella
    • Ind Yeh'ya
    • Ind Elh'aj Brahim

  • Ind A'ezzab:
    • Ind Elh'aj Sliman
    • Ind Yekhlef
    • Ind Jbara

 

A list of the main surnames found in Zuwarah today. Please note that some of the following names are originally "nicknames", probably based on 'profession' and 'habit', and therefore may not be desired by their owners.

  • A'ebza
  • A'eka'ak
  • A'ekkasha
  • A'ekkari
  • A'emrani
  • A'eshshini
  • A'es's'ara
  • A'ezzabi
  • Amensori
  • Bekka
  • Belum
  • Bellouz
  • Bena'ribi
  • Bendeq
  • Bennana
  • Beqqoush
  • Berk'a
  • Berriku
  • Beskal
  • Boua'jaja
  • Boudeeb
  • Boukhnana
  • Boukria'at
  • Bousahmeen
  • Bousa'oud
  • Bousennouga
  • Boushwashi
  • Bouzriba
  • Debbab
  • Dehhan
  • Dehmani
  • Denbawi
  • D'erd'er
  • Ela'efrit
  • Fd'is'
  • Fent'az'i
  • Founas
  • Gaa'bour
  • Gendouz
  • Gereb
  • Get't'ousa
  • Ghaba
  • Gherdeg
  • Ghriba
  • Hamisi
  • H'eleb
  • H'elmi
  • H'enish
  • Housh
  • H'naya
  • H'udjaj
  • H'sayri
  • Idrisi
  • Jerrafa
  • Jbara
  • Khertoul
  • Mald'i
  • Ma'rouq
  • Maskhout'
  • Ma'emmer
  • Merkous
  • Nannis (Jeyyash)
  • Nnayel
  • Naa'al
  • Nnejjar
  • Qeffaz
  • Qerri
  • Qerwi
  • S'aki
  • S'ebkha
  • Shelghem
  • S'mama
  • T'abouni
  • T'bia'a
  • Ttelloua'
  • T'termal
  • T'twini
  • Yea'la
  • Z'elmat'

 


Nafousa:

Nafusa or Nafousah is a massive group of tribes still inhabiting Nafousa Mountain including Yefren, Kabaw, Jado and Nalut, as well as other small villages and settlements found across the mountain. Al-Yaqubi (9th century) informs us that the territory of the Nafousa extended from southern Tripolitania to the neighbourhood of Kairouan (in Tunisia). Their coastal capital during that period was Sabratha, also known as Zwagha. After the various 'arrivals' during the course of the centuries, and after the orders were given to "leave nothing standing" in Sabratha, the Nafousa tribes were forced back towards their stronghold, the mountain.

Yefren Tribes:

(The following list was compiled from the Arabic article published at www.tamatart.com/?cat=27):

  • Ind Salem:
    • Taqerbust:
      • Ind Bu Qs'ia'a
      • Ind It'aleb
      • Ind Mensour
      • Lea'nanib
      • Ind A'ashour

    • Lqes'bat:
      • Qradyoun
      • Ind Bu Srafa
      • Mashoshyoun
      • Lema'aniyoun

    • Bkhabkha:
      • Ind Said
      • Ind Belgasem
      • Lea'babda
      • Ind Younes

  • Wer S't'ef:
    • Legs'ir:
      • Ind H'wires
      • Ind H'riz
      • Lekhsharba
      • Ind Belgasem
      • Ind A'isa

    • Tazemrayt:
      • Ind Dawed
      • Ind Shoushan

    • Shqarnah:
      • Ind Mens'our:
        • Ind Miloud
        • Ind eblawi

      • Ind Bu Wezra:
        • Ind H'reib
        • Ind Fares

      • Ind Madi

    • Taghma:
      • Ind Dawed:
        • Qdamir
        • Lemzazfa
        • Ind Buras
        • Ind Yah'ya
        • Mqalish
        • Ind Braheem
        • Zt'at'fa

      • Ellhawna:
        • Ind Mana
        • Leghwal
  • Qela'et:
    • Lea'lawna
    • Khazamiyoun:
      • Lbedden
      • Zmazma
      • Ind Bu H't'enna
      • Llkeshat

    • Qasbet A'ka:
      • Ind A'emer n Muh'emmed
      • Ind Ghida
      • Zrarfa
      • S'lalia'

    • Ind A'ebd Nbee:
      • Ind Shouma
      • Ind Sliman
      • Bah'ouh'
      • Ind A'isa n H'emmed
      • Ind Mesa'oud n Said
      • Gd'ad'fa

    • At Meldyan:
      • Ind A'isa
      • Kridiyoun
      • Ind Bu Lhoushat

    • Ind A'ebdella n Mousa
    • A'ezzabet Lbwarin

  • Mjersan:
    • Byaten
    • Ind Younes
    • Jwamea'
    • Qrashda
    • Khzazliyyah
  • Shmamkha
  • Mourabitoun:
    • A'ekkara
    • Shiyab

 

Fessat'u (Jado) Tribes:

  • Ind Ma'emmer:
    • Ind A'amer 
    • Ind Sma'en
    • Inmutar (Ind-Mutar)
    • At Bukhtala

  • At Elh'aret:
    • Ind Dawed:
      • Ind Sma'en
      • T't'eba
      • Bghanah
      • Ind Khebt'a
      • Ssekba
      • Khersh
      • Ind Brahim

    • Ind A'ethman:
      • Hdaret
      • Ind A'ebdeslam
      • Mawaqeer

    • Ind Ma'youf:
      • Ind Ma'youf
      • Jwahla
      • Ind A'li

    • Ind Nouh':
      • Drabza
      • Ind Salem
      • Ind Lekhres
      • Ind Yekhlef
  • Ind Sould'an:
    • Ind Zekri
    • Ind Khlifa
    • Ind H'emed:
      • Ind H'emed
      • Ind A'ali n S'aleh'
  • T't'arfa
  • T'ermisa:
    • Lemqa'i
    • Ind Mesa'oud
    • Ind Mensour
    • Ind Yekhlef
    • Ind Yeh'ya

  • Jennawen:
    • Qlalla
    • Ind A'ali
    • Ind Bu H'neik
    • Ind Sahel
    • Ind Bu Ras
    • Drawja

  • Nedbas:
    • Ind Bu H'neik
    • Ind H'muda
    • Ind Bu Mt'ireq

  • Weefat:
    • Ind A'emer
    • Ind A'isa
    • Ind Midel
    • Imezghorten

  • Reqreq:
    • Ind Feth'ella
    • Ind Bu A'ziz
    • Shfousha
    • Rrezq

  • Tmezda:
    • Ind A'idan
    • Lebkaksha
    • Tnazfa

  • Ia'ezzaben: originally a name given to religious devotees and scholars among the Abadites. This tribe is found in Jado, Yefren, Nalut and Zwara.

 

Kabaw Tribes:

  • Inna'em:

    • Ara n Mesa'oud:
      • Shrih'a
      • Rbeea'
      • Qlew
      • Ind A'emer

    • Ara n Khlifa:
      • Gojila
      • Bushkiwat
      • Busaq

    • Ara n Sliman:
      • Fria'a
      • Tekhshisha
      • Lehmud
      • Qerqaba

    • Ara n A'ebdleghni:
      • Rwimed'
      • Hedhud
      • H'eshaeshee

    • Feshatla
    • Tbarsa:
      • H'ojjaj
      • Bourza

    • Ind Khlifa N S'aleh'
    • At Baroun:
      • H'aj Said
      • H'aj Sliman
      • Ammi A'li
      • Ma'loula

  • Ikhlifayen:
    • Asawda:
      • Buqt'aya
      • A'oumer
      • Dawed
      • Leq
      • Fet'fet'

    • Ind Sa'd:
      • Kea'wan
      • Wadi
      • T'risha

    • At Zarrizra:
      • Yeh'med
      • Ghellous
      • Mea'qaf
  • Araa'isa:
    • Ind Lefqi:
      • shshawesh
      • Fer
      • Busetta
      • Fert'as
      • Lefqi Yeh'ya
      • Sliman A'emer
      • Zerzer

    • H'oushtali:
      • Damja
      • Bu Lea'rouq
      • Naja'a
      • Mersh
      • Babetni
      • Merqa
      • Bardo
      • Qebqeb

    • Ind Qes'ba:
      • Beqqes
      • Masa'oud Khlifa A'emer
      • A'isa Khlifa
      • Na'em
      • H'ebila

  • Ind Yunes:
    • Rebah', S'ada'
    • Ind Yunes:
      • Qenjor
      • H'aj Makhlouf
      • Makhlouf Yunes

    • Ind Musa KAfer:
      • H'eslouk
      • H'lasa
      • Qej

    • Ind Said S'aleh':
      • Jeq
      • Krakuz
      • Deyyab
      • Gendouz

    • Ih'daqayen
      • H'daqa
  • Ia'ezzaben
    • Ind A'amer:
      • Na'ama
      • H'aj Zekri
      • Barouni

    • Ind Sliman:
      • S'ekkouh'
      • T'eref
      • Shera'

 

Nalut Tribes:

No data is available currently.

 

(2) - The Eastern Berbers:

  • The Eastern Berbers: those tribes inhabiting the oases of Jalo and Aujila (Jalu, Awjla or Awjilah) in Cyrenaica, Eastern Libya. These tribes were part of a larger group of Berber tribes inhabiting the various oases in the Libyan desert in both countries Libya and Egypt, of which only Siwa in Egypt survives to this day. In ancient times all the oases  west of the Nile were inhabited by Berbers (Imazighen), and it is these oases that gave us the name "oasis", from Latin oasis, from Greek, from Coptic ouahe, in turn from Berber-Egyptian wh''t.

 

(3) - The Southern Berbers:

  • Tuareg: Tuareq (الطوارق), Twareq, Twareg, Imushagh, Imuhaq: the Tuareg tribes comprise a large and complex group of nomadic Berber tribes and clans, native to the Sahara desert and its various oases like Ghadames and Ghat. The Tuareg people speak a Berber language, which they call Tamasheght or Tamaheqt, and hence their name Kel Tamaheqt means "the Speakers of Tamazight", meaning: "the Speakers of Berber Language". There are an estimated 40 major languages comprising Berber language; rightly compared by one British linguist to Indo-European languages, which all share one common ancestor.

  • The name Tuareg, according to the historian Ibn Khaldun and other sources, comes from Berber Targa, the ancient name of Fezzan and a subdivision of  the Sanhaja Berber group, who were still inhabiting Fezzan during the time of Ibn Khaldun.

  • The ancient Berber Garamantes are considered the ancestors of the current Tuareg tribes of Fezzan (Fazzan) in southern Libya. 

 

19th century Tuareg group       

19th Century Tuareg Group.

The Tuareg tribes are nomadic by nature and as such their traditional home is the great Sahara herself. The Tuareg are also called the "Blue People of the Sahara", simply because of the indigo fabric which stained their skin blue. The most distinguishable feature of the Tuareg people is the veil, or tagelmoust, and hence they are also known as "Kel Tagelmoust" ('the People of the Veil'). The origin of the veil is not understood, but it is possible that its original use was to protect against desert sand and wind during travel from one caravan station to another, and that after few generations it became part of the culture where Tuareg men wear it even while eating inside their tents - they pass food and drinks under the veil. This hypothesis may explain why Tuareg women do not wear the veil, as they do not take part in these caravans and hence they are not exposed to desert sand and wind as their men are.

The Tuareg are highly spirited nomadic Berber people, who originally controlled the whole of the Sahara, including parts of Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. Only a handful of families still live a nomadic life in the Acacus region in Libya.

The typical tall Tuareg nomad is highly dignified, brave, walks with long, slow steps, in unison with his camel, and like all spearmen carries himself erect. Their eyes are generally dark and piercing. Captain Denham describes Tuareg women having copper complexion, large black eyes, finely shaped noses, and long plaited hair.

Like his forefathers in the old days of Herodotus, Oric Bates says, the modern nomad is conspicuously robust and healthful, eats and drinks sparely by necessity, and can walk 60 miles in two days on a handful of dried dates and a few cupfuls of water. The loneliness of the Sahara tends to intensify the sense of liberty to which the nomad is born heir. This sense of freedom is now in serious danger of extinction, if the current persecution persists; simply because they were robbed of their homeland: the Sahara herself.

 

Tuareg Fighters

The Twareg Dance

An old Targi passing by a team of young dancers; at first he fails to imitate them, but then he succeeds in out-performing their best; and so, out of shame, forcing the youngsters to leave the place, one by one. Experience and subtlety is the theme of the 'dance'.

 

Berber Tuareg Confederacies:

The Tuareg territories are divided into various federations in Libya, Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso; each of which originally had its own traditions and tribal laws. The following map lists the Tuareg confederacies as Sultanate or Sulthanate.

 

Tuareg Cconfideracies

The various political groups of the Tuareg confederacies of North Africa.
Click for a larger map and more information.

 

 

Tebo (Tibbus):

The Tebo (also Tibu, Tibo, Tibbo, Tubu, Tebbos or Toubou) are a group of tribes found to the east of Fezzan, as well as in and around Tibesti Mountain, whence the name Tibesti itself - the region from which a number of Chadian presidents were said to have come including Goukouni Oueddei and Hissene Habre. Their principal region was said to be Bilma, north of Lake Chad, and their ancient capital in Libya was Tazerbu. Today, they are mainly mentioned in association with the violent events in Kufra and most recently by the Chadian border. Their main towns include Tazerbu, Kufra, Bezzima, Qatroun and Tajerhi. Generally, the western side of the Libyan Sahara is inhabited by the Tuareg, while the eastern side is the home of the Tebo.

According to The Living Races of Mankind (Hutchinson & CO., London),  Ethnographically the Tibbu is the less important of the two groups inhabiting the Sahara (the Tebo and the Tuareg); and that although their flat nose and high forehead suggest "that the race is mixed", most of it "is probably Hamitic". The source also says the Tibbus dwell mainly in rock-shelters, caves or rough huts; and that although the Tibbus headquarters is Tibesti Mountain, they "have settlements in Fezzan" (vol. II, p. 386).

The Tebo are without a doubt native to the region. The Tebu were said to be of Berber origin from the Lemta tribe (by al-Yaqubi) or part of the Berber Sanhaja tribe (by Agostini), in which case they would be Tuareg-related. The Berbers are Hamitic group of tribes. One source listed by Wikipedia (J.K. Zerbo, L’histoire de l’Afrique noire) says the Berber tribe Zghawa was the founder of the Kanem-Bornu Empire, and that this tribe together with Teda and Guran are the three main branches of the Tebu. Other sources however relate them to the Ethiopians. Berber, Chadic and Ethiopian languages are Hamitic languages belonging to the Afroasiatic phylum (the old Hamito-Semitic family). Tebu or Tbawi language, however, is a member of the Nilo-Saharan language family. The name Tebo was said to mean "Rock People" and hence Tibesti Mountain ('Rocky Mountain').

The number of the Tebo in Libya was estimated to be around 5,000 people; divided into two main groups: the Teda and the Daza, with the main tribes include the Kechad (of the towns of Abo and Tibesti); the Febabos (south west of Aujilah); the Borgou (further south); Arno (recalling Arkno Mountain nearby the Egyptrian and Sudanese borders); and the Gunda Tibbus (further southward).

Early explorers remarked that the Tibbos are not like other central African tribes, and that they appear to have been infused with other northern tribes. Their bodies are slim and their walk is light and swift. Their facial features include sharp eyes and thick lips, and their hair is not as curly as that of other African tribes. Tebo females are light and graceful, whose striking features include aquiline noses and fine lips. Their hair is plaited on each side of the face. Like the nomadic Tuareg nearby, the Tebo men rarely take any decisions without consultation with their women, and when the men are away the females take full control of the family. Tebo individuals identify with their clan, each of which has its own associated taboos. [Out of curiosity, the etymology of "taboo" traces its origin to Polynesian and other South Pacific languages, and the word had entered the English language in 1777 AD from Tongan "tapu" ('forbidden'') via Captain James Cook who visited the Friendly Islands (now Tonga).]

 

The Persecution of the Tebo People:

The Tebo of the Kufra in Libya were invaded by the Sanusi (Senussi) clan in 1840s, and subsequently the Arabs took control of the oasis, while some of the inhabitants fled to the southern regions where they joined other Tebo tribes. Like the native Berbers, the Tebo were also persecuted by the Gaddafi regime. According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:

"STP recalled that massive discrimination of the Toubou minority had been reported from the south eastern part of the country . . . In the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, they were treated as foreigners by the authorities. In December 2007, the Libyan Government withdrew citizenship from members of the Toubou group, stating that they were not Libyans but Chadians. Furthermore the local authorities issued decrees barring Toubou from access to education and health care services. The armed movement “Front for the Salvation of the Toubou Libyans” has opposed these measures and up to 33 people died in Kufra, during five days of fighting between the official security forces and the Toubou in November 2008 . . . Since November 2009 dozens of families lost their homes due to forced destruction by bulldozers supervised by state security forces . . . People who refused to move from their houses were beaten by security officials. Some were notified by the authorities to leave the houses only minutes before bulldozers destroyed their homes. No alternative housing was proposed to the victims of the forced evictions. Furthermore, Libyan authorities refused to renew or extend passports to members of this minority. Several times parents were prevented from registering births of their children and denied birth certificates.

Source: United Nations (:
(lib.ohchr.org/HRBodies/UPR/Documents/Session9/LY/A_HRC_WG.6_9_LBY_3_Libya.pdf).

pdf sign Download Human Rights Council Report regarding the persecution of both the Berber and Tebo people of Libya by Gaddafi's government.

 

First persecuted by the Sanusi clan, then by Gaddafi, now the Tebo say the new government (the NTC) is not doing enough to protect them, as they once more came under attack during the transitional period, despite them fighting alongside the fighters in Fazzan and even capturing Murzuk from Gaddafi's forces. On the 12th of February 2012 clashes erupted again in Kufra, where intermittent fighting was reported by the media. The fighting took place between the Arab Zwai (or Azwaya) tribe and the Tebu. At least 17 people were killed (9 Zwai and 8 Tebu) and 20 injured on Sunday and Monday. Five more people died on Tuesday during the third day of clashes.

On the 23rd of February 2012, Jamestown Foundation published its report: "The Battle for Kufra Oasis and the Ongoing War in Libya", available at the United Nations Refugee Agency's website:
(unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4f4b5a502.html). The report said:

"An escalating tribal conflict in the strategic Kufra Oasis has revealed once more that Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) is incapable of restoring  . . . Though this is hardly the first clash between the African Tubu and the Arab Zuwaya tribe that took control of the oasis from the Tubu in 1840, it is certainly the first to be fought with heavy weapons such as RPGs and anti-aircraft guns, an innovation that is reflected in the various estimates of heavy casualties in the fighting . . . Well over 100 people have been killed in less than two weeks; with many hundreds more wounded (Tripoli Post, February 22)."

 



The Jews

The Jewish community of North Africa must not be confused with the later Jews who arrived after their expulsion from Spain. Under the Roman rule the Jews were living in harmony with the native Berbers, until the first century when the Israeli Jonathan reportedly incited the poor to revolt in Cyrene (in 73 BC), only to be crushed by the Romans.

A second revolt followed in 115 in Cyrene, in Egypt and in Cyprus. When the Germans occupied Benghazi the Jews were subjected to an ordeal that saw them persecuted and even deported; resulting in many Jews fleeing to other North African countries and Europe for refuge. The number of Jews in Libya during the Italian occupation was estimated by Agostini to have been around 25,000 Jews, mainly living in the old city of Tripoli (al-H'ara), which was characterised by its narrow and roofed lanes - still to this day a great tourist attraction.

Berber Jews: the Berbers who adopted the Jewish faith, long before the arrival of Islam, like the "Nafusa" in Tripoli, the "Nefzawa" in Tunisia, and other tribes from Algeria, Morocco and some desert oases.

Semitic Jews: foreign Jews arrived from other countries. Their numbers began to increase as more Jews began to arrive from Spain, first in 1391, and then after the 30th of July 1492 when the entire Jewish community, said to be around 200,000 people, was expelled from Spain.

The Hebrews and Arabs are closely related peoples, sharing a common cultural ancestor, in which Arabic and Hebrew languages are considered by linguists to be "sister languages". For example Arabic salam and Hebrew shalom mean the same: ('peace').

 

 

Karaghila (القولوغلية , الكورغلية):

Alkaraghila is a name given to a mixed group of people of foreign janissaries (الإنكشارية) from the Ottoman empire and local Arab and Berber women as well as Christian maids who, Agostini says, were kidnapped by Tripolitanian pirates. The majority of this group, the same source adds, are found in Tripoli, Zliten and Mesratha. However, according to Wikipedia (ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/الكراغلة), Ismail Kamali says this group included many Libyans including Arabs and Berbers regardless of their ethnic background. They were an influential group during the Ottoman occupation, providing manpower to all government services, including defence, security, the army and tax collection; for which the Turkish Pashas rewarded them with special rights and privileges. This remained so until Hafed Pasha issued a new administrative structure in 1902.

 


Immigrants:

Part 1: Gaddafi's GPC's Contribution:

After 1969's "staged" coup Libya witnessed a massive influx of foreign workers, primarily invited to take part in rebuilding Libya. Many of these workers came from Tunisia (construction workers and labourers), Egypt (teachers and labourers), Palestine (teachers), and Yugoslavia and Bulgaria (doctors and nurses), among other countries.

After Gaddafi split from his Arab dictators, he turned his attention to poor Africa instead. Self-titled "the king of kings of Africa", Gaddafi called for pan-African unity and a common currency. This change in Libya's politics was responsible for the ensued second wave of immigrants, estimated at one million workers, mainly from neighbouring African countries like Sudan, Niger, Chad and Mali.

High Libyan wages for unskilled workers, which reached nearly $300 a month, were also attracting large numbers of immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa and from Asia. It was reported that this wave of legal immigrants eventually led to other waves of illegal immigrants, and soon afterwards Libya became a transit route for organised criminals who smuggle illegal immigrants into Libya and then from Libya into Europe via Sicily and Italy.

One of the main smuggling routes was the 800 miles desert route between Niger and Libya, via the city of Agadez. Later on, during Gaddafi's last verbal assaults on Europe, he warned to turn "Europe black". Italy had agreed a $500 million worth of electronic monitoring devices to help Libya crack down on illegal migrants turning up on Italian shores; but later it emerged during the war that many immigrants fled Libya via the same sea, some of whom were left to die in the sea, as reported by the Guardian.

With the increase in Libyan unemployment (currently stands at about 35%), and the spread of "social problems", which had never existed before at this scale, many Libyans began to have second thoughts about immigration; and thus through local committees, the government said, they influenced the GPC to react and order a crackdown on the employment of illegal workers in the year 2000.

Shortly afterwards, a wave of mass deportation of illegal immigrants (who had no official visas) began to attract the attention of human rights organisations. Tens of thousands of Nigerians, Ghanaians, Chadians, Gambians and Sudanese were deported; with many more being held in mass detention centres in an indescribable conditions. The total number of illegal workers before the wave of deportation reached approximately 1.5 million workers; while the number of legal workers was estimated at about 750,000 workers.

Part 2: NTC's & GNC's Contribution:

As soon as Libya was declared liberated, the NTC was reported to have abolished entry visas for Tunisians, and was also said to have negotiated deals to bring one million Egyptian workers into Libya! On August 2012 Tunisian, Libyan and Egyptian foreign ministers were reported to have agreed to deepen cooperation and consider whether to allow their citizens to travel without the need for visas. In the same week Libyan transitional rulers had agreed with Morocco to abolish Libyan visa requirement for Moroccan 'diplomats', 'workers' and 'private passport' holders (whatever that means). With the constant change of governments and officials it becomes more difficult to follow these policies, or even confirm if they were implemented or not. Aljazeera's Imran Khan reported that more than 6,000 Syrians arrived in Libya because they did not need a visa - by 2013 the Libyan media said the number of Syrian refugess is now more than 100,000. 

Criminal gangs and "mystery cells" came to light immediately after liberation of Libya (2011), and began a systematic campaign of organised trafficking in illegal immigrants across all Libya's borders. These groups appear to be well armed, busy, and have no regard for the law. They assassinated border security officials in Benghazi; attacked and killed border officials at Emsaad (Libyan-Egyptian border); and kidnapped and killed government officers in and around Kufra.

The NTC said it was tackling the issue and progress was being made. But even after the NTC was replaced by the elected GNC, the ministerial office remains unable to control the disaster, despite declaring Fezzan a "military Zone", and despite the stark warning given by PM Ali Zidan that the air force is out to blast outlaws taking advantage of Libya's fragile tragedy.

Many Libyans objected to these activities including official agreements struck by "transitional" rulers, and organised criminal activities running in the background, stating that matters of security, treating the wounded, and restoring basic services should have priority; especially so when so many Libyans still are out of work, and when the official and final government is yet to be elected.

 

 
 

 

 

Ancient Tamazight (Berber) Tribes of Libya

 

ancient Libyans according to Egyptian  drawings

Ancient Libyans as pictured by the ancient Egyptians.

 

The Ancient Berber Tribes of Eastern Libya:

The lists will deal only with the ancient Berber tribes of Libya, and will not cover the modern Berber tribes of the country. All the following tribes existed in classical times, during the times of Herodotus and Ptolemy, and some of which were earlier mentioned by the Ancient Egyptians.

Many of these ancient tribes were still present in the area when the Arabs arrived in North Africa in the 7th century, as they were mentioned by various Arab writers, especially the Austuriani, Mazices, Marmaridae, Nasamons, Leuathae, Psylli, Macetae or Macae, Mamucii, Ifuraces, Mecales, Cinithii, Garamantes, Gaetuli, Natabres, Libyoegyptiae and Magempuri.

Temeh’u, Tmh': from the extent of their territories appear to have been comprised of various communities or tribes. The cemeteries of a distinctive non-Egyptian people, discovered between the First and Second Cataracts and dated to the Sixth Dynasty, were identified with the Libyan Temehu. In late dynastic times the Egyptians divided the human race into four classes, namely the Egyptians, the A’mu (Semitic), the Neh’esu (black Africans) and the Temeh’u (the Berbers); and thus Temeh’u designates the whole of the Temazight-speaking communities west of the Nile.

Teh’nu: in the country Th’nw of ancient Egypt: designate the Berber people inhabiting the countries west of the Nile Valley (Fayum, the northern oases, and between the Egyptians and the Rebu). They are normally mentioned in the plural form such as "the countries of the Teh’nu"  and "the chiefs of Teh’nu", and were identified with the ancient inhabitants of the Egyptian Delta. 

 

amazigh tribes

 

Rebu:  this tribe was located farther west of Temeh’u and Teh’nu, in the region of Cyrenaica. The name Libya comes from this eastern tribe, known to the ancient Egyptians as Rebu. According to Bates (p. 80), Lbki, the earlier name of Leptis, is the same as Libu, in which the U being marked by an equivalent K.  The reading LBKI derived from the legends of the Punic coins of the city, and found in at least one Roman inscription: “CIRRA VERNA LEPCITANA”. The name still survives today in  “Hatt’ah el-Lebuk”, a village few hours south of Siwa, in Egypt. The Rebu group comprised a number of tribes along the north of Libya, like Es’bet, Kehek, and probably the Libyarchae, placed by Ptolemy in the Gebel el-A’qabah, near today’s  Libyan-Egyptian border.

Kehek: the Kehek appear to have been a fairly numerous tribe, since they supplied the Egyptians with mercenaries. They were a close ally of the more powerful Rebu.  From their number and association with the Rebu, they have been placed by Bates (with reserve) in the interior of the territories of the Rebu.

KeyKesh:  according to Bates, this name either is of a small tribe or a misspelling of Kehek. It is found in the list of Rebu and Meshwesh forces defeated by Rameses Ill.

Imukehek:  the Imukehek appeared once in the Egyptian annals  (XVII1th Dynasty), but as they were a northern people, they may be related to the Kehek (part of the Rebu group).

Meshwesh: a powerful group of allied Berber tribes of eastern Libya, who were able to regain the lost Egyptian throne (Shoshenq, Sheshenq).  The name Meshwesh is but one form of the generic Berber appellative MZGH, as seen in such classical forms as MaXY-es and MaZY-es. In ca. 945 BC the the Libyan Berber king Shishenq, from the Meshwash tribe, succeeded in establishing the 22nd Dynasty in Egypt; momentarily fulfilling the prophesy of the ancestors.

Macetae: were mentioned by Synesius as an ally of the Ausuriani, and have been confused with Mazices by some modern writers. Oric Bates suggests that the Cyrenaican Macetae may have been related to the Macae.

Macatutae: Ptolemy places these “caves of the Lasanici” in the vicinity of the Psylli, the latter being on the same parallel, farther to the east.  According to Oric Bates, “In the Antonine Itinerary a point Lasamices is found between Semerus and Cyrene, and it has been conjectured that this was the site of the Lasinici, and that they were to be found in Wadi K’erayb.”

Nasamones: the territories of the Nasamones extended from the coast, bordering the eastern part of the Greater Syrtis, into the interior of Augila, and even roamed far to the south and west towards the borders of the Garamantes.  According to Herodotus: “A numerous tribe, who in the summer leave their cattle on the coast and go up country to a place called Augila  for the date harvest.  The date-palms here grow in large numbers and to a great size, and are all of the fruit-bearing kind.  These people also catch locusts, which they dry in the sun and grind up fine; then they sprinkle the powder on milk and drink it” (iv. [167-174]). Recorded history informs us that the Forgotten begotten five Nasamonian brothers were the first geographers to explore the Sahara desert and as such we must remember them as such.

Adyrmachidae: from the Egyptian Delta westwards to the harbour called Port Plynus (Port Bardia) [Herodotus, iiii. 328]. This old ethnic group is one of the ancient Libyan tribes of the Delta of Egypt, long before Shishenq of the Meshwesh tribe recovered the throne during the 22 dynasty, and so it was said the Adyrmachidae way of life is more or less Egyptian in character - that is the Egyptian way of life was more or less Berber.  They dress like the rest of the Libyans, and their women wear a bronze ring on each leg, and grow their hair long; when they catch a bug on their persons, they give it bite for bite before throwing it away. They are the only Libyan tribe to follow this practice.

Barcaei (Barqa): mentioned by Ptolemy and Herodotus to inhabit the areas around Barca. In Byzantine times the Barceans were regularly spoken of as a distinct ethnic group.

Tautamaei, Tautamona: Oric Bates mentions them as a Syrtic people who appeared in several related Latin chronicles (Excerpta Barbari; Liber generationis; Chronic. an. p. Chr. 334; Origo human. gener., loc. cit.-Tautamona).

Libyarchae: west of Aniritae, in Gebel el-A’kabah, and along the coast.

Libyaegyptii: or Libues Aegyptii is a mixed tribe, who were located by Ptolemy west of the Nile in Middle Egypt, and therefore may have been the dwellers of the oases H’argah, Dah’lah, etc.

Leucaethiopes: Leucoe Aethiopes ('the White Aethiopians'), placed by Pliny  south of  Liby-Egyptian tribe. Oric Bates says the location is too vague to be of value geographically, and these Leucaethiopes of Pliny may be the Libyans of the Nubian Nile.

Libyaethiopes: a mix of Ethiopians and Libyans, which my indicate a Nubian tribe, or another tribe farther south (Orosius i. 2 § 88).

Auschitae: placed by Ptolemy south of the Nasamon.

Es'bet:  the name of this small tribe, part of the Rebu group, recalls the Asbystae (or Pliny’s Hasbitae).

Asbytae:  Es’bet, in the east of Cyrenaica.

Asbystae: west of  Giligamae, in the vicinity of Cyrene, but not reaching the coast. They are conspicuous amongst the Libyans for their use of four-horse chariots.

Augilae: Pliny places the Augilae half-way between Aethiopia and the Syrtis, and thus they may  had penetrated as far south as the oasis of Kufra. The name survives today in the name of the oasis Aujila or Awjla(h), south of Cyrenaica.

Auschisae: this Berber tribe, whose way of life was compared by Herodotus to that of the people south of Cyrene,  was placed south of Barca, all the way to Euesperis (Benghazi) in the north and east to the Asbystae. They are thought to be the same people as the Ausigdi of the city of  Ausigda,  mentioned by Callimachus  and Hecataeus. Within their territory is the small tribe of the Bacales, who reach the coast near Tauchira, a town belonging to Barca.

Marmaridae: the Marmaric Nome is extended inland to a considerable distance from the sea, southerly from the Gebel el-A’kabah. They were in the same position when the Arabs arrived in North Africa.

Nitriotae: in west Egypt: this locative name  indicated an ethnic fusion of Berbers and Egyptians, the inhabitants of the modern Wady Natrun, west of the Delta and  in the northern Fayum.

Ararauceles: this tribe was placed by Ptolemy in southeast Cyrenaica.

Aezari: in the far south, below Sentites.

Anagombri: placed south of the Adyrmachidae by Ptolemy.

Aniritae: west of the Zygritae, and on the shore of the Catabathmus Major, by the present Libyan-Egyptian border.

Apotomitae: southwest of Bassachilae.

Bassachilae: south of the Aniritae, probably related to or the same as he Bassachitae, who were grouped about the town Masuchis (cf. Meshwesh).

Bacaiae: south of Augilae, and almost west of Nasamones.

Bacales: a little tribe enclaved by the Auschitae, touching the coast at Taucheira (Tokra).

Mezatah: mixed Luatah Berbers about Ptolemais in Cyrenaica (El-Edrisi, loc. cit.) and in Ugilah.

Fezarah: located by El-Idrisi in Cyrenaica.

Buzeans: placed by Ptolemy northwest of the Adyrmachidae.

Chattani: were associated with the town Chettaea; placed by Ptolemy west of Zygeans  on the coast, near modern Alexandria,  in the vicinity of a small town: Chettaea.

Zygritae: next to the Chattani, near modern  Alexandria,  in the vicinity of the sea-town of Zygris.

Cinyphii:  from their name, they belonged to the fertile area about the Cinyps River near Leptis Magna.

Giligamae: from Plynus as far westward  as the island of Aphrodisias (Sharkiah or Hammam Islands).

Goniatae: located by Ptolemy in west Egypt, northwest of the Mareotae.

Mareotae: in west Egypt: this locative name denotes the tribe who inhabit the modern Mariut, who were much fused with the inhabitants of the Nile Valley.

Shai: the Shai appear but once in conjunction with the Es’bet, Keykesh, Hes’, and the Beken, in the wars of the Meshwesh and Rebu.

Hes’:  mentioned once  with the Shai, the Hassah, a modern  Arabo-Berber  tribe of  Cyrenaica.

Ogdaemi: located in west Egypt, South of Mastiatae, in the vicinity of Mt. Ogdaemum. Oric Bates suggests that this tribe, mentioned by Ptolemy with Mastiatae, Goniatae, Anagombri and Zygeans, probably belonged to the  Adyrmachidae.

Mastiatae: located in west Egypt, west of the Mareotae, and south of the Goniatae.

Ruaditae: in south Egypt, west of the Libyaegyptii.

Iobacchi:  south of Anagombri, and west of Ruaditae.

Oebillae: south of Iobacchi.

Sentites: adjoining Oebillae on the west.

Tapanitae: adjoining Auschitae on the east, south of Nasamones.

Zygeans: this locative name refers to the people of the coastal area, near modern Alexandria.

 

 

 

amazight tribes

The Ancient Berber Tribes of Western Libya

 

MZR, MZK, MSK, MZG: the name MZGH appeared in the writings of classical writers in various forms, like Mazis or Mazyes (Hecateus); Masuchi and Maxyes (Herodotus);  Maschouacha (Chabas); Meshwash (Ancient Egyptians); Maksiz (Ptolemy); Mazikes or Mazages (Claudian); Maxitani (Justin); Mazic (Latin inscriptions); forms of MSK (Libyan inscriptions: Chabot 1940, nos. 191, 192, 353, 793); Mazigan (Canary Islands), etc. The same generic appears in classical times as MaZiC-es, MaZaC-es  or MaZaG-es, MaZY-es,  or MaXY-es, and is also seen in the Libyan inscriptions forming personal names. Biblical Lubim appeared in the Old Testament as Lebahim, the son of Mizraim, the son of H’AM (Gen.  x. 6-13). The name MZGH was undoubtedly employed as a generic term by the ancestors of the modern Imushagh (Imuzagh, Imazighen, Tuareg) and their various branches.

Ifuraces: from their location in the interior of Tripolitana, this tribe can be identified with the Beni Ifuren of Ibn Khaldun, most of whom were to be found in the west in the vicinity of Tlemsan,  as well as in Libya’s Nafousa Mountain (today's Yefren). The ancient Ifuraces were the neighbours of Mazices or Mazigh.

Nafusah: the Nafusah, Nefusa or Nafaousah and the Hawara tribes may be related to that of the more prominent tribe of Africa Minor called Nefzawah. The Nafousa group of tribes, living in Nafusa Mountain; in the region between the sea and the mountain, with Sabrata being their coastal capital, before its destruction; and according to al-Ia’qubi (9th century) to the neighbourhood of Kairouan, includes the Beni Ifuren of Ibn Khaldun, still living in Yefren in Nafousa Mountain and in the vicinity of Tlemsan; who were identified with the ancient Ifuraces of the classical sources.

Laguanten: the Leuathae of Procopius, the Laguanten of Corippus, or Laguantes, Laguantan, Ilasguas, or Leucada, grouped by Corippus with the Austuriani, the warlike Austur of the invincible Ilasguas, were mentioned in relation to their revolt in Tripolitania during the time of Emperor Maximian. Ibn Khaldun's legendary ancestor Lua or Lewwa was regarded as the father of Zayr and of numerous Berber tribes known under the general designation of Bani Lewwa (or Lewwata).The Lewwata were spread across Tripolitania, including Tripoli, Barqa or Cyrenaica and Marmarica, and according to Leo Africanus as far east as Egypt, and so the designation came to be used for all the Berbers of Eastern Libya. The Zenarah, a tribe of the Lewwata established in Egypt along the western edge of the Delta, and continued there until dislodged by the Mameluks, who drove them into Barqa, where another group of  Zenarah already existed (al-Yaqubi). According to Oric Bates the Lewwata had caused the mediaeval name of the classical Ammonium to change from Santariyah  to  Siwah before the fifteenth century A.D, and were the predominant branch of the Berber stock in Eastern Libya during the seventh century AD.  The genealogies given by Ibn-Khaldun in his History of the Berbers relate the Lawata and Nefusa to the tribes of Botr, another legendary ancestor, while place the Hawara among the Beranes, the other great Berber family.  Both Botr and Beranes descended from Berr, who descended from the ancestor Mazigh and/or ancestress Tamazigh(t). The other Luathae who continued to inhabit Egypt after the Arab invasions include: Benu Barkin; Benu Magdul (Majdul), in the province of Gizah, including B. Thahlan, the Sak’k’arah, B. Abu-Kethir and B. el-Gelas; Benu H’adi’di (who recall Morocco’s Berber Ait H’diddu), the most powerful element in the Egyptian Saa’eed; Benu K’at’ufah, comprising the Maghaghah (who Ibn Khaldun  traces to  Luah the elder) and the Wakhilah; Benu Malu, comprising B. Gheras, B. Gemmaz, B. el-H’akem, B. Warkan, B. Walid, B. el-Hajjaj and B. Mah’resah; Benu Ballar, or the B. Balain of Ibn Khaldun, who were divided into the sub-tribes: B. Mohammad, B. A’li, B. Nizar and B. Thahlan; Benu Yah’yah, a mixed tribe of Zenatah and Huarah (and probably others),  in the province of Manufiah; Benu A’bdah; Benu Mokhtar; and Benu el-Wa-Suah, the Siwa  of El-Ya’qubi and Tisuah  of Ibn Khaldun.

Austuriani: the Austuriani  tribe were placed in Syrtica, between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, in the fourth century.  Their territories stretched as far as the oases of the Giofra or Jofra (Waddan, Socna, Houn).

Macae: the Macae, located by Herodotus (iv. [175-181]) west of the Nasamones, wear their hair in the form of a crest, shaving it close on either side of the head and letting it grow long in the middle; during war, they carry ostrich skins for shields.  The Macae joined forces with the Carthaginians to drive out the Greek Doreius, in his failed attempt to establish a colony at the mouth of the river Cinyps (Wadi Caam), which rises from the Hill of the Graces, some twenty-five miles inland. They survived far into the Roman period  around the western and southern part of the Syrtis Major, while the Macae Syrtitae occupied the southeast corner of Syrtis Major.

Psylli [Seli]: Pliny (Hist. Nat., vii 14) places the Psylli on the Syrtic coast above the Garamantes, and   gives Psyllikos Kolpos as an early name of the Syrtic Gulf. They received their name Psylli from Psyllus, one of their kings whose tomb is in existence in the district of the Greater Syrtis. According to Oric Bates, the story told by Herodotus of the battle of the Psylli against the south wind appears to have been a native version of Pliny’s account to the effect that the Psylli were nearly exterminated by the Nasamones, who then took possession of their territories. While Olwen Brogan (Hamito-Semitica, 1975, p. 279) further adds that they did not completely disappear: “In the third century A.D. there was a tribe of some importance, the Seli, along the south of the Greater Syrtis, with towns at Macomades Selorum (Zaafran, Sirte) and Digdica or Vigdida Municipium Selorum.”  The Psylli were famous for their powers of charming serpents and curing their bites and scorpion-stings, and it was believed that they were in some mysterious way antipathetic to poisonous animals; of which Oric Bates further adds that,

“ In classical  times, the Psylli were employed as doctors to “charm” snake-bites and scorpion-stings, perhaps the most famous occasion on which their services were requisitioned being one where their powers proved of no avail – for Octavius endeavoured vainly to restore Cleopatra to life by the arts of these serpent-masters” (O. Bates, p. 179, 180).   

Phazanii, Gamphazantes: ancient historians and geographers place the Garamantian region Phazania and the ethnic group Phazanii south of the Syrtis Minor and south of Nefusa Mountain, right through the Black Mountain and into the Sahara desert. The name Phazania disappears from later Roman sources, and reappears as Fezzan in the writings of the early Arab historians. The provinces of Fazzan, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were grouped together as Libya by the Italians in 1930s.  It is evident that the generic term Phazanii was used for a number of tribes, including the Natabres, in the vicinity of the river Nathabur, Niteris, Enipi, Discera and Nannagi. Some of the ancient towns mentioned include Alele, Cillaba, Talgae, Tabudium, Nigligemela, Bubeium, Thuben, Nitibrum, Rapsa, Debris, Thapsagum, Boin, Pege, Baracum, Buluba, Alasit, Galia, Balla, Maxalla, Zigama, Mount Gyri, Cydamus, the modern Ghadames, and Garama, the most famous capital of the Garamantes. According to Pliny, Mount Gyri was preceded by an inscription stating that this was the place where precious stones were produced. According to Olwen Brogan: (Hamito-Semitic, 1975, p. 280), “It is usually accepted that the inhabitants of Phazania were the Gamphazantes, a tribe mentioned by Mela (I, 8) and Pliny (V, 8).   Procopius places a tribe called the Gadabitani near Lepcis Magna (e Aedif., VI, 4) with a town called Gadabis which Desanges (1962, 16, 22, 91-92, 138 n. 6), thinks could be a version of Cydamis.”

Garamantes:  or Garamants, placed by Pliny twelve days journey from the Augilae, and ten days by Herodotus, in the interior of Libya. Herodotus informs us that the Garamantes were a very numerous tribe of people, who spread soil over the salt to sow their seed in, and hunt in four-horse chariots. They occupied the most habitable region of the Sahara, the Wadis el-Agial and Sciati and the oases from Murzuk to Zuila.  They had control over a wide area, spanning the entire region from Tibesti to Acacus including the enigmatic Messaks and Wadi Metkhandoush. They initially run their kingdom from the nearby capital Zinchecra, then from Germa or Garama (today's ) in the first century AD, so named after their eponymous ancestor Garamas. Garama is thought to be the same as as Jerma or Germah of today’s Fazzan.   Please click on the following link for the full article about Germa and the Garamantian civilisation of ancient Libya (http://www.temehu.com/Cities_sites/germa.htm). To this day there is no complete nor comprehensive work to document what many came to know as one of the earliest civilisations of the Sahara, and all that is known about them is as obscure as they were  made to be.

Cinithii, Cinti: this ancient tribe, located south of the eastern shore of the Syrtis Minor, figure in later times as one of the main divisions of the Libyan group.

Gindanes: adjoining the Macae on the west, they appear to have been an important division of the Lotophagi (of Zarzis or Zuchis near the Syrtis Minor).

Arzuges:  the regions of Tripolitania and Regio Arzugum met near Leptis Magna, where the mountain reaches the sea, but were separated by the plain of the Gefra elsewhere. According to Olwen Brogan (Hamito-Semitica, 1975, p. 281), “Their regio extended to the neighbourhood  of the Shott el-Jerid, for we hear of a bishop of Tusuros (Tozeur) travelling to Carthage in 411 and passing through the land of the Arzuges (presumably to take ship from Tacape) . . . The churches of the Sofeggin basin very likely came under the jurisdiction of the Arzugitan bishops, and since St. Augustine, in one of his letters mentions barbarians being admitted into the country of the Arzuges along the frontier to carry out tasks such as crop-watching, it looks as though the regio extended right across our pre-desert area (Epist., 93 and 46-7) . . . If the Arzuges ranged over so great an area they must have been a large confederation of tribes, and the few names of sub-tribes we have, such as M.s.li and T.gl.bi (or N.gl.bi) in the Wadi el-Amud (Sofeggin, first century)  (Levi Della Vida 1964a, 58-60) or Motebi (El-Amrouni near Foum Tatahouine, Tunisia, third century) could belong to them (Neo-Punic inscription; see Berger 1895, 73-75).

Auseans: like the Machlyes, from whom they were separated by the Triton river, the Auseans lived in the vicinity of Lake Tritonis. According to Herodotus [book iv.  175-181], “Both these tribes . . . hold an annual festival in honour of Athene, at which the girls divide themselves into two groups and fight each other with stones and sticks  . . . Before the fight is suffered to begin, they have another ceremony.  One of the virgins, the loveliest of the number, is selected from the rest;  a Corinthian helmet and a complete suit of Greek armour are publicly put upon her, and, thus adorned, she is made to mount into chariot, and is led around the whole lake in a procession.”

 

amazight tribes
Numidian

Numidae: according to Herodotus there are two groups of Libyans:  the agricultural population and the shepherds or the nomads, of which Numidae is the Latin form. However, according to Oric Bates, this popular derivation of Numidae from the Greek “to graze” or  “a pastoral wanderer”, is questionable. The land of Numidia, as a kingdom of Masinissa extended east all the way to the eastern borders of Tripolitania, in Libya. The Numidian  Massyli tribe were the subjects of king Masinissa, while the Masaesyli were the subjects of Syphax.

Gaetuli: placed by Pliny in the interior, north of the Liby-Egyptians, and south of the Gararmantes. While Oric Bates asserts their true position to have been along the north-western confines of the Sahara, and not farther eastwards than the Garamantes.  It appears that the Gaetuli comprised many desert tribes, such as Ptolemy’s Baniurae-Gaetuli (v. 2) and Darae-Gaetuli (v. 1).

Atarantes & Atalantes: the mysterious Atarantes tribe was located by Herodotus (Hist. iv. [184]) about ten days’ journey from the Garamantes, about whom he says, “The only people in the world, so far as our knowledge goes, to do without names. Atarantes is the collective name.”  He also reports that they curse the sun as it rises and call it by all sorts of opprobrious names,  eat no living creature, and never to dream. Ten more days’ journey from this, crossing yet another hill and a spring, Herodotus came to a slender-cone-shaped mountain (Mount Atlas), which he says the natives, who call themselves Atlantes, after the mountains, call it the Pillar of the Sky.

Machryes: or Machlyes: Pliny relates them to the Lotophagi tribe (the lotus eaters), while Herodotus and Ptolemy locate them about Lake Tritonis, or today’s Shat’t’ al-Jareed in Tunisia. Herodotus states that the Machlyes also make use of the lotus, but to a lesser extent than the Lotophagi.  “Their territory reaches to a large river called Triton, which flows into the great lagoon of Tritonis.  In the lagoon there is an island named Phla, and there is said to have been an oracle to the effect that the Lacedaemonians should send settlers there.” (Herodotus, iv. [175 -181].

Libyphoenices: mixed Berbers and Semites, who were probably numerous wherever the latter had colonies in North Africa, Ptolemy confines them to north of Byzacitis, near Carthage.

Magempuri: according to Bates this tribe must have had some importance in the eyes of Vibius Sequester, since they are among the six African peoples he lists. They are otherwise quite unknown.

Other tribes mentioned by classical sources include:

  • Achaemeneans (south of Ogiplonsii)
  • Astrices, Astacures (south of Nigitimi, west of Samamycii)
  • Bubeium
  • Capsitani (around Capsa)
  • Cerophaei
  • Darae-Gaetuli
  • Discera
  • Dolopes (south  of Tidamensii or Cydamus)
  • Enipi
  • Erebidae (part of the  Lotophagi)
  • Eropaei (west of Samamycii)
  • Gepheans (south of Machryes)
  • Haliardi, Iontii, Lotophagi (on the Syrtic coast)
  • Mideni
  • Mididii
  • Musuni
  • Mampsari
  • Motuturii
  • Muturgures (south of Achaemeneans)
  • Muchthusii (south of Muturgures)
  • Machryes or  Machroas (in the elbow of the Syrtis Minor)
  • Machyni ( northern Byzacitis sahel)
  • Muctuniani
  • Musuni
  • Marchubi
  • Mimaces (south of Gepheans)
  • Musulani: or Musulini (Tacitus )
  • Nigitimi (south of Lotophagi)
  • Nygbeni (north of  Nycpii)
  • Nycpii
  • Nicives
  • Niteris
  • Nannagi
  • Nattabutes (or Natabudes or Nathabutes)
  • Ogiplonsii (south of Cinithii)
  • Ozutae
  • Samamycii (along the west Syrtis Major)
  • Mamucii (probably the  Samamycii  of  Ptolemy)
  • Sabarbares or Saburbures
  • Uzalae (south of Mimaces).

 

 

Please let us know if you need to report any errors or add to the above lists.

 
 

 

 

Berber Nesmenser; Zuwarah, Libya.
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Updated: 2009
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Updated: 23 August 2012

Updated: 28 September 2012
Updated: 02 June 2013

 

 



 
 
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