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Music Festivals & Celebrations > Fantasia in Morocco
Travel To Morocco & Experience a Moroccan Fantasia Horse Mousseum
It consists of a group of horse riders, wearing traditional clothes and charging along a straight path at the same speed so as to form a line, at the end of the ride (about a two hundred meters) all riders fire in the sky using old gunpowder guns.The difficulty of the performance is synchronization during the acceleration especially during firing so that one single shot is heard. The two words in Arabic that describe the main events in the Fantasia are ‘harrga’ meaning a movement and ‘barood’ meaning gun-powder. The Fantasia horse and is of type barb.
The performance is inspired from historical wartime attacks of Berber and desert knights. Today, Fantasia is considered as a cultural art and a form of martial art.
Each region in Morocco has one or several fantasia groups, called serba, totaling thousands of horse riders nationwide. Performances are usually during local seasonal, cultural or religious festivals, also called moussem ('season' in Arabic).
In most Islamic countries there is an important equestrian tradition based on the meaning of the horse in the Islam. In Saudi Arabia there are Fantasias with “mehari” (riding camels) and in Algeria it is practiced as a collective equestrian game for great traditional celebrations. In this dance, battle rides are stimulated, interspersed with bursts of rifle shots. The dance highlights the nobility of the horseman and the mount. Performed by women from the high mountains of Djurdura, the Kabyle dance celebrates the abundant harvest and olive collecting, where women express their joy prior to Fantasia. The dance is common throughout the west of Algeria and is performed by men. The stamping of the feet which accompanies the dance expresses a bond with the earth and the capacity to endure.
A Fantasia is best characterized as an event with a team of competing horses and complemented by sounds of firing muskets; the latter is mostly done for tourists. Fantasia horses are well bred and well groomed stallions whose bodies are complete muscle. No ordinary work horse is allowed to participate in the Fantasia. Furthermore, there is a Berber saying that “only men and virgin women are allowed to ride these magnificent animals,” because non-virgins may cause the stallion to loose its power and speed.
This colorful display of horsemanship begins with a procession made up of women from the Zayaan tribe on horseback. Traditionally, there is a procession of riders. First in line are the virgin women of the Zayaan tribe; behind them are the village men. Next is the Aid el Baroud (the Festival of Gunpowder). In this section, rows of armed horsemen lined up by rank press their knees forward, dig their heels into the girth, and then take up a fighting position by standing up in their stirrups. The horse riders charge along a straight path at the same speed so as to form a line, at the end of the ride all riders fire in the sky using old a gunpowder gun called a moukahla. The difficulty of the performance is synchronization during the acceleration and especially during firing so that one single shot is heard.
The performance reflects the strong relationship between man and horse as is perceived in Islam. While each region in Morocco has one or several fantasia groups, called serba, if you are a horse aficionado, Tissa will appeal to you the most. Located thirty-three kilometers from Taounate near the Rif Mountains, Tissa is the destination where horses and riders from the region gather to compete in an annual horse fair. The competition is judged on the speed, discipline, and how the horse is outfitted.
You can also experience the Fantasia in Marrakesh, in the evenings outside the city walls near the Bab Jdid in the month of July. There’s also a restaurant called Chez Ali in the palmary of Marrakesh that offers Fantasia, as entertainment, with Berber song, dance and fireworks while you dine over a traditional meal of miswhi (Moroccan roasted lamb) and couscous. Tourists and horse fans across Morocco can also attend Fantasia in the coastal city of El Jadida, 190 km south of capital Rabat. For the firs time this horse show was held from October 22-26 in 2008 under the theme “Pride and Passion.” The town was transformed into a sight of medieval festivities, color and music.
Fantasia also referred to as the Aiin Aouda, Mock Horse-Back Battle, is an annual equestrian performance and celebration of traditional folklore that takes place in Meknes each July. This horse-riding spectacle includes hundreds of charging horsemen (and women) wearing traditional clothing. Fantasia is a perfect example of traditional folklore in Morocco.