The Rif of Morocco

The Moroccan Rif has been associated for several decades with the Islamic conquests towards Europe and the 3 wars of liberation against the foreign colonizer and the frequent protest movements in the region from time to time in recent years. We can hardly hear about the Rif except popular movements, demanded marches and security repression. In this article you will  discover a different image of the Rif and the features of this important region of the Kingdom of Morocco.

Geographic extension

The Moroccan Rif  is located in the northern part of the Kingdom, extending between the Strait of Gibraltar and the city of Tangier in the west to the borders of Algeria to the east, along the Mediterranean, and to the south the region overlaps with the plains of the west, then Sais, up to the regions of eastern Morocco.

The Rif is divided into 3 regions: the western Rif which extends from Tangier to Ketama,  an isolated town in the heart of the Rif know for cultivating .The middle Rif Mountains extends from Ketama west to the Kurt River in the east, the depth of the Rif with its rugged terrain and its pure rural Berber identity is formed. The eastern Rif extends from the easternmost part of the region to the borders of Algeria.

Among the most prominent cities of the Rif  are Al-Hoceima, Tetouan, Nador, Chefchaouen, Tangier and Taounate. Additionally, Ceuta and Melilla, which Spain occupies. Morocco demands their recovery, but the Spanish authorities consider these cities to be theirs.

The Berbers ... the indigenous people

The Moroccan Rif is home to an important part of the Berbers called "Riafaa", and from it they took their name, and they speak "Tarefet" (one of the three branches of the Berber language in Morocco). The Riafaa Berbers are spread in the middle and east of the Rif. Other groups like Senhaja live with them since ancient times. It is believed that their distant roots date back to the Sahara Desert, which is the first habitat of the region.

The Rif mountains … A mixture of Arabs and Moors

In addition to the Amazigh or the Berbers, the Rif is inhabited by other human groups known as "Jbala. Jbala are the inhabitants of mountainous regions at the front side of the Rif and the Middle Atlas Mountains.  Jbala people speak a Moroccan dialect which is a mixture of Berber words, Spanish words and Arabic words in contrast to their neighbors from the Amazigh tribes. Jbala are a mixture of Arabs and Moors, who are Muslims fleeing from Spain to settle in Morocco after the fall of Granada in 1492 AD.

Mountains, forests, waterfalls, and beaches as well

The Moroccan Rif has mountain ranges that make it a kiss for landscape lovers, and some geologists consider the Rif Mountains and the Andalusian Mountains a single geological unit that resulted from the collision of the African and European tectonic plate before deep periods and then separated later.

The Rif has a vast forest of fir and black pine in addition to others. It extends between the tough mountains, along with hundreds of species of unique plants and animals that inhabited the region for hundreds of years.

In addition to the beauty of its trees, gardens and flowers, the region is also distinguished by its waterfalls, lakes, rivers and mountains. Its elevations covered with flowers and various plants, makes it a charming area that attracts tourists looking for comfort and relaxation. The calmness and distance from the hustle and bustle of the big cities is an enticement to many visitors.

Along with its mountain ranges, forests and waterfalls, the Rif mountains has charming beaches along the Mediterranean coast. This seduce lovers of swimming and marine sports, and stunning landscapes. The city of Al Hoceima is described as the “jewel of the Mediterranean”. It has several beaches. It is a destination for anyone looking for fun times

The beaches of the Rif give a special glow to the region and makes the eyes of tourists and their cameras lenses attracted to it. The Boskor beach, as an example is a mixture of sea serenity and mountain calmness where its visitors enjoy stunning unique views.  Additionally, Kimado beach, located in the city of Al Hoceima, a few meters from Mohammed VI Square is one of the most wonderful beaches in Al Houcaima. It is characterized by the purity of its waters, its calmness, and the beauty of its parts blended between the blue sea and the greening of the bushes on the mountain.

Great architecture: The Kasbahs

The region is also distinguished by its great architecture, witnessing a great civilization known to the region. It is an architecture that tells the history of the ancient Rif and its glorious past. There the past and the present side by side are at the same time equally. In Tetouan, for example, the Andalusian architecture is apparent with its roofed tiles houses and its external windows. Kasbah of Sidi Al-Mandri, with the remains of a wall that is 65 meters long and rises to a height of 7 meters was built during the 15th century by the first city founder, Abu al-Hasan Ali al-Mandri.

 This Kasbah occupies the northwest corner of the city. This allows to control all the passages from an observer, which is at the height of the towers. All internal monuments were built during the 15th century, during the reconstruction of the city. It consists of a castle, a mosque, a house and a small bathroom. In the past it represented in the  the center of the ruling authority and a military base as well as the place where the founder of the town used to live.

In Tangier, the Kasbah contains a large palace (turned into a museum) and distinguished mosque with an octagonal minaret. It stands on the top of a rocky hill overlooking the coast. Access to it is from the small market or from Bab Baroud gate. It is mandatory to visit the Kasbah because it is one of the most important places where you will enjoy panoramic views over the Mediterranean

In the city of Chefchaouen, the bleu pearl of Morocco, the Kasbah is located in the heart of its old medina. It the nucleus of this little bleu town and its one of its cultural heritage. It’s surrounded by a wall and 10 towers in Andalusian architectural style that combine simplicity and harmony.


Customs and traditions defying time.

Many rural areas retain many traditions that distinguish them from the rest of the Kingdom. The traditional rural wedding, for example, shows the locals’ loyalty to their tradition, roots and customs. The wedding lasts for several days. Some rural tribes choose to start their celebrations on Friday, believing in Blessing of this day because of its religious connotations.

The wedding always starts by Hammam, a bath. During this day, the bride and her friends go to the Hammam. It is a symbol of purity. The bride has to be purified and ready for her new life.  During the second day of the wedding, the women gather at the bride's house to make Henna, a symbol of joy and beauty. The following days are characterized by inviting friends, family and neighbors to start the weeding. The third day is called “Nzoul” which implies the official start of the weeding where the bride family invite the neighbors, friends and families to celebrate together. The weeding party may last to 8 days. The last day is when the bride is accompanied to her new home, her husband house.

Berber folkloric dress

Berber women’s dress is very distinguished from the country’s cities by its Andalusian style. Many of them still wear a dress similar to that of Granada. There is though a difference between a woman from the countryside and the one from the city. The countryside women dress is unique and special for this part of Morocco. It is composed of a striped Mandil, similar to an apron. The color of which is differs from one tribe to another. The second element is the “chachiya”, the hat with the pompoms. Finally “kourzia” which is a coreset, the color of which differs from tribe to another