Friday, February 18, 2011

Merry Christmas...wait wrong holiday and religion.

In the Muslim world the Prophet's Birthday is like Merry Christmas to us (Christians). People take it seriously and there are many festivities that go along with it. Morocco (especially Meknes) does something very unique for the Prophet's Birthday. Before I talk about the uniqueness, let me tell you how they determine when it's the Prophet's birthday. They determine it by the moon. The Islams are on a lunar calendar instead of a calendar like we are on. So Tuesday night they declared that the Prophet's birthday is on Wednesday (ISA told us that we didn't have to go to school on Wednesday and Thursday). ISA decided to give us an extra day off from school so we can celebrate the Prophet's birthday longer so no school on Friday too :D. I'm spoiled.
Alright so now a brief history about religion in Morocco (after this you will understand the uniqueness): The people of Morocco were first the Amazigh (like Native Americans to us) and the Amazighs believed in pagan rituals, for example trances, animal sacrifices, self mutilation, dancing, music, and so on. When Islam was first introduced to Morocco (in Moulay Idriss - I've been there) the people didn't want to let go of some of their rituals from the past. So they created a, as I like to say, Islam fusion. They incorporate the Islam traditions along with their own pagan rituals - *uniqueness*. The Qur'an reinforced the significance of evil spirits (like in Christianity, there are possession of demons and we need an exorcist to release the demons). Their main fear are the djinns (this word is spelled like 10 different ways but literary translated, it means genie). Djinns can be evil, good, or neutral spirits that either consume someone, a place, or a thing. Each djinn has it's own unique trait, for example: one djinn may only like the color yellow so the person being possessed by the djinn wears yellow (strange, huh). Anyways they have rituals to get the djinns out of the body and that ritual is done by dancing. Women will dance bent over, twirling their head from side to side, around in a circle, and up and down to try and get the djinn out. They consider this a trance. Once done with the trance, the women will collapse to the floor ending the process.
Here's a picture of a trance:
The lady in the stripe purple caftan is dancing, the guys behind are playing music, and the guy in the center was saying something...don't know what because I don't know the language. Later he came by asking for money.
So in Meknes, people from all over come to participate in the religion and celebrate together - Islam fusion.  Tents were pitched in an area by the Medina-old city of Meknes (reminded me of Harry Potter and the Quidditch World Cup). There were people trying to sell what they brought. Some people set up camp and opened a "restaurant" in their tent. In the actual Medina people were lined up, reminded me of people waiting for a parade. There were people all over, on top of walls, on top of roofs, in the trees, and wherever else they can squeeze in to see the so called parade. I don't understand what exactly was going on but I can try to describe it to you. It looked like there were different tribes or different something because each group of people that I saw was carrying a flag (that was in the front of the group). In the center of the group, people were making a circle and dancing crazy and the back of the group was the musicians. All the people in the center wore white. Oh, it was advised to us that we should not wear black. Black symbolizes evil or evil spirits.  
Here's a picture of a group passing by:
It's kind of hard to find where the center is but it's there somewhere and they are dancing and playing music. I did not see any animal sacrifices but I did see a woman take a little lamb into a square blocked off by the police here so I figured that is where they are sacrificing the lamb. 
To describe how busy it was, I went back down to the Medina later on in the day (with a group of friends) and we had to take shelter in a store because there were so many people trying to get in and trying to get out. People were pushing and shoving their way through which actually caused a fight!
Here's a picture:
Me sheltered in a store looking at the mob of people. 
Like I said, I did go to the Medina later on and when I tried to show people where all the tents were, they were all gone. It was bizarre to see an empty space but I guess everyone went home after the morning rituals. 
Well, that was a very Merry Prophet Birthday party.
Bslama (good bye in darija)

Check out the tents!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting Heather. Thanks for keeping us updated on your experience. I'm glad you went inside the store and didn't get pushed around. I love to see the pictures also.
    Love Aunt Dar