- The Arabic term rif is a geographical notion that refers to the northern zone of Morocco formerly under Spanish and international control. It is an area of about 20,000 square kilometers, stretching in width from the Strait of Gibraltar to Oued Lukus and in length from the Atlantic coast to Oued Moulouya. People of the Rif region recognize three main confederations as well as territorial divisions: Rif, Ghommara, and Sanhaja. They also recognize a territory known as Jbala, the Arabic word for "mountains or hills people."In the Rif, people of the Atlantic shore are called "Igharbiyen (westerners). To the west and southwest of the Rif is the Northern Sanhaja, which is composed of Berber-speaking Sanhaja Sghir or Little Sanhaja and the Arabophone Sanhaja. The Sanhaja confederation is composed of 10 tribes: Ktama, Aït Seddath, Bani Gmil, Aïth Kannus, Taghzut, Aïth Bu Nasr, Banu Bou Shibat, Bani Hmid, Aïth Bachir, and Zarqat. On the southern slope of the Rif Mountains are two other Sanhaja confederations, Sanhaja Ghaddu and Sanhaja Musbah, but these groups no longer speak Berber and have little contact with the Sanhaja of the northern zone. Furthermore, Bani Bu Frah and Bani Yittuft are usually regarded as Rifian, although they have almost lost Berber speech. Mtiwa and Mistasa are disclaimed by both Rifians and Ghommara, and they may be descendants of immigrants or exiles. Targuist is another special case, as its cultural affiliation is obscured by the presence of holy families, alleged descendants of the Prophet who encouraged a shift from Berber to Arabic speech. The limits of the Rif are more difficult to trace. Sanhaja and Ghommara generally view all tribes to the east of them as Rifian, but among the Aïth Yahya and other tribes of the Kart and Moulouya valleys, this name applies to the tribes of the Oued Nkur watershed. This is a zone of transition between the "True Rif" (Aïth Waryaghar, Ibbuquyen, Aïth Ammarth, Igznayen, Aïth Tuzin, and Thimsaman) and the eastern frontier of the northern zone. There are two additional minor confederations within the eastern Rifian group: Iqar'ayen and Garet. However, the Ouled Stut are intrusive Arab Bedouins, like the Khult or mixed population of the Atlantic coast.The Ghommara, whose territory extends along the Mediterranean coast from Oued Uringa to Oued Lao, consist of about nine tribes (Banu Bu Zran, Bani Mansur, Baun Khalid, Bani Sliman, Bani Siyyat, Bani Zejal, Bani Rzin, Bani Grir, and Bani Smih) and are separated from Sanhaja by the main mountain crest. Only a few villages of Bani Bu Zra and Bani Mansur retain Berber speech. Tradition has it that these tribes are descendants of the nine sons of an immigrant schoolteacher named Aghmir, believed to have migrated from the Sous or Saguia al Hamra region in southern Morocco. In sum, the eastern half of the northern zone (Rif and Garet) retains Berber speech, whereas the western half (Jbala and Ghommara) has been Arabized.In northern Morocco, three variants of the Berber language are spoken: Rifian, Sanhajan, and Ghmara. Rifian or Tarifith is by far the most important, and it varies somewhat from one area to another. Sanhajan speech is close to Rifian, and the difference between the two is probably as great as that between Spanish and Portuguese. The Ghmara speech is almost extinct and is spoken only in Bani Bu Zra and in a few villages of Bani Mansur and Bani Grir.See also Khattabi Al-, Abdelkarim.
Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . Hsain Ilahiane. 2014.