Tamesloht : a Town of Camels,  Sacrifice and Marriage

Tamesloht : a Town of Camels, Sacrifice and Marriage

A gaggle of older men in djellabas were sitting outside of the main entrance into the zaouia of Moulay Abdel Hussein, the grandfather of Moulay Brahim who’s tomb and  zaouia resides a little further south in the foothills of the Atlas mountains.  Both grandfather and grandson and their zaouias, play significant roles in a ritual which forms part of the living history of the Sidna Bilal Gnaoua brotherhood;  a history which is primarily contained in the very music and rituals it performs.

The legend and associated moussem ( festival ) is documented in a former blog post here . (more…)

Pilgrimage : Moulay Brahim and the Gnaoua

Pilgrimage : Moulay Brahim and the Gnaoua

“You will fly over the ocean,” he continued, “by the power of baraka, the blessing of Sidi Moulay Brahim,  tair lajbal, indicating the spirit bird that flies over the Atlas Mountains”

Memoir of a Berber by Hassan Ouakrim

The young girl got up from the cushion and stood beside the figure in colourful, flowing robes already dancing directly in front of the line of musicians. The low monotone of the hajhuj and the rhythmic clacking of the qraqebs crackled through the cold November air.  She imbibed heavily from a white cloud of burning incense and a cloth of colour was placed over her head. Blind, her own dance joined that of the dancing figure beside her.

The girl was endeavouring to cure or treat a ‘malady’ of some description,  either by invoking or pleasing benevolent spirits or by propitiating malicious ones.  She was entering trance,  a dissociative state which permits the fording of dimensions between this world and the world of the troublesome, mischievous jinn.

(more…)

Sidi Kaouki : A Marabout Shrine on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco

Sidi Kaouki : A Marabout Shrine on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco

Sidi Kaouki is a small town on the windswept Atlantic coast of west Morocco.  Some 25 miles south of Essaouira, its long golden sands and dashing surf make it a favourite for surfers and windsurfers.  There is a collection of stylish hotels, surfing and windsurfing schools,  and lines of drying wetsuits around its environs, which attest to this interest.

Standing at the top of the beach,  close to the coterie of cafes and shops,  is a marabout shrine.  Here the white building  rises from the sandy beach as the largest structure close to the shoreline.  This particular type of building is known as a Koubba,  or Koubbeh,  which is Arabic for dome or cupola.  It specifically refers to a monument erected on the grave of a revered figure,  or in a place where he ( or she ) stayed or lived.

These monuments occur mainly in North Africa and consist of a spherical dome built on a square, cubist building which forms a room,  often decorated, which houses the tomb of a saint.  They are normally quite small buildings,  their size rarely exceeding 4 meters square.

(more…)