Berber Dress

The nomadic Berber people trace their African roots back to 2000 B.C.E. (Nomads are peoples who have no fixed place of residence and wander from place to place usually with the seasons or as food sources become scarce.) Over the years since then their dress has changed with the influences of invading cultures. Influenced by the past colonization of ancient Romans, whose power was felt in the region from about 509 B.C.E. to 476 C.E. , many Berbers continue to wear a haik, a large cloth wrapped around the body in a fashion similar to a Roman toga. When Arabs conquered their territory in the twelfth century C.E. , the Berbers were forced to accept the Muslim religion and the strict dress codes of that religion. Arab influence is still present among Berbers today. On their heads men wear wrapped cloth turbans, and women cover their hair with scarves and their faces with veils called mandeels. Under their haiks, many Berbers wear ankle-length tunics or loose trousers called chalwar. In general, the Muslim influence is stronger among the Berbers of the north, where women wear plainer clothes in public than at home. In the south, Berber women's clothes are notably colorful and decorative. Although the clothes worn today by many Berbers have ancient origins, some Berbers, especially those living in cities, wear Western style clothes.


Kennett, Frances, and Caroline MacDonald-Haig. Ethnic Dress. New York: Facts on File, 1994.

[ See also Volume 1, India: Modern Islamic Dress box on p. 85 ; Volume 1, Ancient Rome: Toga ]

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