The annual pilgrimage around the locality of Essaouira every spring is called ‘ Regraga’, a name which also describes the group of Chorfa ( a darija word denoting noble religious leaders descending from the Prophet Mohamed otherwise known as Sharif ) who make the pilgrimage annually.
The Regragas originate from Chiadma, a region located on the Atlantic coast between Safi and Essaouira in the south of Morocco. They are the descendants of the saint apostles of Islam who, legend suggest, learnt the new religion of Islam on a visit to Mecca. Here they were told by the Prophet to spread Islam to the Maghreb. Every spring (March-April) the descendants carry out a pilgrimage which lasts 39 days and visits 44 sacred places in the region. Pilgrims visit a series of local shrines, from the mouth of the Tensift river south of Safi to the northern outskirts of the High Atlas, including the city of Essaouira .
The Pilgrimage contains two groups; one group stops at every shrine on the way where they build a holy tent of palm fibres which is then dyed with henna. The other group arrives in procession with a moqadem (religious leader) riding a white horse.
The Daour (tour) of Regraga starts in the zaouia of Sidi Abdellah ou Hmad in Akermoud and concludes in Sidi Messaoud Boutritiche in the town of Had Dra .
I Am He Whom I Love
I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I:
We are two spirits dwelling in one body.
If thou seest me, thou seest Him,
And if thou seest Him, thou seest us both.
Hussein Ibn Mansur Al Hallaj
On the bus recently from Casablanca I was fortunate to sit next to a teacher of English from Safi, a Portuguese coastal city in between Casablanca and Essaouira. Of the diverse topics we discussed, perhaps the most interesting was the subject of the current dichotomy in Moroccan society regarding the relevance of traditional superstitious beliefs in comparison with the irresistible march of science and rationality.
Chama was definitely of the belief that the old traditions have had their day, and that Morocco must continue its progress towards modernity. I think she considered my interest in Jinn possession and the Sufi co-fraternities ( Gnaoua, Hamadcha and Aissouia ) practicing different forms of healing in sacred religious/magical ways with incredulity.
Morocco was for the modern, with a linear curve heading directly towards an erudite, cosmopolitan and definitely 21st century society. The traditions were for yesterday.
“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
Late on my final afternoon in Meknes in early June 2019 I decided to investigate an interesting religious building I had seen whilst travelling to the holy pilgrimage town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun by bus several days earlier. This building was situated next to a cemetery on the main ring road which surrounds Meknes close to Bab Berdaine.
I walked under Bab Berdaine and out of the Medina. From the ring road the view was uninterrupted across countryside as far as the range of hills in the distance where, on the invisible side and out of sight, Moulay Idriss’ mausoleum nestled within a valley. The landscape was burnished by the early June sun. Beside me, as I walked, cars, motor cycles and buses slowly filed by, their noise destroying an otherwise peaceful afternoon.