Peripatetics of the Maghreb

ETHNONYMS: Mauritania: Maalemin (Sán'a), Tatari. Morocco: Beni Bacchar, Beni Hami, Bez-Carne, Ghenanema, Romani, Susi, Zigani. Algeria: Beni Ades, 'Amer.

Very little is known of peripatetic communities in the Maghreb. In the early twentieth century certain communities such as the Ghenanema of Morocco and the Beni Ades and the 'Amer of Algeria had already become largely sedentary. The above list of ethnonyms is neither exhaustive nor up to date. It is known, however, that in Morocco the Bez Carne were known to others as Beni Bacchar and consisted of four subgroups. The community that called itself Romani was known to others as Zigani. Each of the communities in Morocco and Algeria spoke its own language, in addition to Arabic. The Bez Carne and the Romani of Morocco claimed that their ancestors hailed from the Canary Islands and Sudan, respectively. In Mauritania, the Maalemin (Sán'a) work as smiths and are attached to the pastoral nomads of the area, known as Beidane. There are similarly attached communities of itinerant minstrels. The Tatari reportedly worked as acrobats. In Morocco in the late nineteenth century, among the Bez Carne, the men worked as caravan guides and tinkers; the women told fortunes and, in one subgroup, were prostitutes. The Beni Hami also told fortunes and performed magic, whereas the Ghenanema were petty traders and beggars. In Algeria, the men of the Beni cAdes dealt in animals, circumcised, and tattooed, and their women told fortunes. Among the 'Amer the men and women were animal dealers and tattooers, respectively. All the above-mentioned communities are Muslims. In Morocco, the common patron saint was Didi Hassan O Moussa, whose shrine is in Sus. Similarly, in Algeria, the patron saint common to all communities was Dis Ahmend Ben Youssef of Miliana.


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