Chaoui people

Appearance move to sidebar hide Chaoui people (Shawiya)
Map showing Chaoui areas in the east
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Aurès, Algeria
Sunni Islam

The Chaoui people or Shawia (Algerian Arabic: الشاوية, Tachawit: Išawiyen) are a Berber ethnic group native to the Aurès region in northeastern Algeria which spans Batna and Khenchla, Oum El Bouaghi provinces located in and surrounded by the Aurès Mountains.

They also live in the Algerian provinces of Tébessa, Constantine, Setif and other parts of Eastern Algeria coextensive with the ancient Massylii of Numidia, as well as northwest Tunisia. They call themselves Išawiyen/Icawiyen (pronounced ) and speak the Shawiya language. They are the second largest Tell Atlas Amazigh-speaking ethnicity, alongside the Kabyles and Chenouas.


Historically, the Aurès Mountains served as a refuge for Berber peoples, forming a base of resistance against the Roman Empire, the Vandals, the Byzantine Empire and Arabs. Aurès was also a district of Algeria that existed during and after the Algerian War from 1954 to 1962. It was in this region that Berber independence fighters started the war.

Madghacen, the burial of Numidias kings

The patriarch of Berbers is believed to have been Madghacen, the common ancestor of the Zenata and of the Botri as well. Ibn Khaldun identified the Zenata as Berbers. Modern historians rank this Berber region within the group of Numidians and Gaetuli or the much more ancient Meshwesh, Maesulians and Mazaxes, from whom the Zenata formed, the main inhabitants of the Aurès in the Middle Ages. Chaoui clans known by Ibn Khaldoun were the Ifren, Maghrawa, Djerawa, Abdalwadides, Howara and Awarba.

According to de Slane, translator of the books of Ibn Khaldun, the term Chaoui/Shawi means "shepherd" and designates the Zenata Berbers.

After the independence of Algeria, the Chaouis remained localized mainly in the Auresian region. They are the second largest Berber-speaking group in terms of number of speakers, the first being the Kabyle.


The Chaoui traditionally speak the Shawiya language (Berber: Tachawit). It belongs to the Berber branch of the Afro-Asiatic family, and is a variety of the Zenati languages.

Shawiya is a closely related cluster of dialects spoken in the Aurès region (Berber: Awras) of eastern Algeria and surrounding areas including Batna, Khenchela, south Sétif, Oum El Bouaghi, Souk Ahras, Tébessa, and the north part of Biskra.

Recently the Shawiya language, together with the Kabyle language, has begun to achieve some cultural prominence due to the Berber cultural and political movements in Algeria.

Culture and art

Chaoui music is a specific style of Berber music. The Shawia dance is called Rahaba; men and women dancing at weddings. There are many 20th century singers, such as Aïssa Djermouni, Ali Khencheli, Massinissa, Ishem Boumaraf, Djamel Sabri, Groupe Iwal, Houria Aïchi, etc.

Chaoui painters and sculptors (of whom there are many) include Cherif Merzouki, Abdelkhader Houamel, Hassane Amraoui, Adel Abdessemed, and Mohamed Demagh.

The fantasia is a traditional exhibition of horsemanship in the Aurès performed during cultural festivals.

The Chaoui were featured in Amor Hakkar's 2008 film La Maison jaune.

Examples of Chaoui craftwork


  1. ^ "Centre de Recherche Berbère - Chaouia".
  2. ^ Khaldûn, ʻAbd al-Raḥman b Muḥammad Ibn (1856). Histoire des Berbères et des dynasties musulmanes de l'Afrique septentrionale (in French). Translated by de Slane, William McGuckin. pp. 495.


External links

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