Zenata were an ethnic group of North Africa, who were a group of various Central and Eastern Berber peoples and were found in Tunisia and Morocco. They are the founders of several Berber states in the Maghreb and Africa.
According to Ibn Khaldoun, the Zenata are one of the main divisions of the medieval Berbers, along with Senhaja and Masmuda. He added that these tribes, were both nomadic and sedentary as well as builders of cities and were concentrated in Middle Maghreb (the current Algeria) : it is why he called "Middle Maghreb" home of Zenata.
There have been some medieval hypothesis about the origin of this Berber group but were already rejected by Ibn Khaldun in the 14th-century. Furthermore they are not accepted by the modern historians such as Emile Felix Gautier or Gabriel Camps.
The Zenata were known for their horseriding skill. The Spanish word for "horserider", jinete, is derived from their name.
Their varieties of Berber, collectively termed Zenati, are spread over a wide area; for this reason, several languages are termed "Zenati" or in some cases are spoken by people who call themselves Zenata.
Among these are Beni Snassen (or Ait Iznassen in Tamazight), a tribe that lives in Northern Morocco and Algeria, mostly in the mountains near Berkane called the Beni Snassen mountains; Sened (now extinct), The Riffian language spoken in the Rif region in Northern Morocco is strongly Zenatized as well. The largest Zenati language being the Chaoui language spoken by the Shawiyas of North-Eastern Algeria.
The Egyptians named the Ancient Libyans to the West of Egypt Libu, Zenata tribes lived to the west of the Ancient Libyans.
In the 8th century most Berbers and Zenata were Kharijites and took part in the Maysara revolt against Umayyad rule. The last Kharijite rebellion was in the 10th century under Abu Yazid, and was defeated by the Fatimids.
During the 10th century some Zenata from Ifriqiya were predominantly allied with the Caliphate of Cordoba, which fought for control of a part of current Morocco with the Fatimids. In the process the Zenata were pushed out of Morocco by the Sanhaja tribe, allies of the Fatimids.
- Recueil des notices et mémoires de la Société archéologique de la province ... De Société archéologique
- Ibn khaldun, History of Berbers
- The past of Africa's dark centuries Nordles Emile De Felix Gautier
- jinete in the Diccionario de la Real Academia Española.
- Nelson, Harold D. (1985). Morocco, a country study. Washington, D.C.: The American University. pp. 23–25.
- Rachid Bellil, Université d'Alger. "Les Zénètes du Gourara d’hier à aujourd’hui (Sahara Zenatas)". Retrieved December 09, 2012.
- Norman Roth. "Jews, Visigoths, and Muslims in Medieval Spain: Cooperation and Conflict". Retrieved December 09, 2012.