Zenaga in Mauritania

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

Zenaga is a Berber language. Berbers generally prefer to call themselves Amazigh, meaning free men. They are the original inhabitants of North Africa, which has been overrun by the Roman Empire, and later by the Arabs in the 600s. Since that time, they have largely been "Arabized" meaning their language and culture have been influenced by the Arabs. But they still yearn for freedom no matter where they live.

In general, Berbers feel that the more powerful Arabs have controlled them, though the two groups have often worked together throughout history. Berber groups like the Zenaga speakers would love to have complete freedom, but there are more powerful groups wherever they live. In the case of the Zenagas who live in Mauritania, the Moors are a powerful ethnic group.

Zenaga was widely spoken in the country until around 500 years ago but after a military victory for the Moors, the language of most tribes gradually changed to Hassaniya Arabic – albeit with some vocabulary loaned from Zenaga. Marabout tribes, who specialised in Islamic religious learning, retained the language for the longest time.

Where Are they Located?

Zenaga speakers live in either south-western Mauritania or northern Senegal. In the mid-20th century, they were described as a group of nomadic tribes in an area roughly bounded by Saint-Louis and Podor (Senegal), and Boutilimit and Nouakchott (in Mauritania) although not within these cities. The people group would therefore be mostly located in and around the town of Mederdra, in the what is now known as the Trarza region.

What Are Their Lives Like?

It is highly possible that Zenaga Berbers are not satisfied with their economic situation or the lack of good roads, potable water or electricity. Their lifestyle has traditionally been rural, nomadic and tribal and the use of the Zenaga has declined over time in favour of Hassaniya Arabic. The Trarza region of Mauritania is mainly desert apart from a thin belt of arable farmland along the Senegal River and its delta.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The primary religion practised by the Zenaga Berbers in Mauritania is Sunni Islam, the largest branch of Islam. Sunni Muslims follow the teachings of the Qur 'an and consider the first four caliphs to be the rightful successors of Muhammad. As some Zenaga people have traditionally held a role as marabouts (religious leaders and teachers), they may be a relatively high level of education and influence in their communities.

What Are Their Needs?

There are few if any Christian materials in their language. The decline of the language is likely to correspond with a long-term sense of cultural decline and a concern about how or whether they can pass on their way of life to the next generation. The language is considered highly endangered and is mainly spoken by people aged over 45 years of age.

Prayer Points

Scripture Prayers for the Zenaga in Mauritania.
There are no Zenaga speakers who have embraced Jesus Christ, so pray for the Holy Spirit to move in their communities in the coming years.
Pray for opportunities for Zenaga speakers to hear and respond to Jesus Christ, despite the fact they live in a closed country.
Pray for a Disciple-Making movement to move through Zenaga communities in both Mauritania and Senegal
For guidance as the Zenaga people face uncertainty and seek to maintain their culture in Mauritanian society

Scripture Prayers for the Zenaga in Mauritania.


Dubié, Paul (1940). "L 'îlot berbérophone de Mauritanie", Bulletin de l 'IFAN; 2, pp. 315–325.

Profile Source:   Keith Carey, et al.  

People Name General Zenaga
People Name in Country Zenaga
Alternate Names Berber; Duaish; Idaouich; Masna; Nimadi
Population this Country 1,100
Population all Countries 1,600
Total Countries 2
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
GSEC 1  (per PeopleGroups.org)
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
People ID 11621
ROP3 Code 102734
Country Mauritania
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 20  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Trarza region: Atlantic coast to Mederdra   Source:  Ethnologue 2018
Country Mauritania
Region Africa, West and Central
Continent Africa
10/40 Window Yes
Persecution Rank 20  (Open Doors top 50 rank, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
Location in Country Trarza region: Atlantic coast to Mederdra.   Source:  Ethnologue 2018

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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
0.00 %
0.00 %
100.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Hassaniyya
Language Code mey   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 2
Secondary Languages
Primary Language Hassaniyya
Language Code mey   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 2
Secondary Languages
People Groups Speaking Hassaniyya

Primary Language:  Hassaniyya

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (2002-2005)
Bible-New Testament Yes
Bible-Complete No
Bible-NT Audio Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Audio Recordings Audio New Testament General / Other
Audio Recordings Online New Testament Faith Comes by Hearing
Audio Recordings Oral Bible stories One Story
Audio Recordings Story of Jesus audio Jesus Film Project
Film / Video Indigitube.tv Video / Animation Create International
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Hassaniyya Jesus Film Project
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels Bible Media Group/LUMO
Film / Video World Christian Videos World Christian Videos
General Bible for Children Bible for Children
General Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
Mobile App Download audio Bible app as APK file Faith Comes by Hearing
Profile Source Keith Carey, et al.  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.