The Muslim world celebrates the Day of Ashura today December 5th, the tenth day of Muharram in the Islamic calendar.
Taroudant – Originally a Jewish celebration, this ceremony marks the Jewish tradition of fasting on the tenth day of Muharram to commemorate the rescue of Moses from Pharaoh.
In Sunni Islam the celebration also is tied to Moses: Where prophet Mohammed advised his fellow Muslims to fast the ninth and tenth day or the tenth and eleventh day of Muharram also to honor the deliverance of Moses.
For the Shia Muslims, Ashura is a day of sorrow and mourning remembering the grandson of the prophet Mohammed, Hussein Ibn Abi Talib, whom was martyred in the Battle of Karbala around thirteen centuries ago.
In some Sunni countries like Morocco, the commemoration has grown beyond its religious roots into a festive and enjoyable day. Moroccans prepare delicious meals made specifically to celebrate Ashura. One of the traditions is to keep the tail of the sheep of ‘Eid Al Adha’ until Ashura, and use it along with sun-dried meat called “kurdas” inMorocco’s famous dish of couscous. Kurdas contains liver, fat and lots of spices, wrapped around the stomach and tied tightly with the small intestines then stored in an open sunny place to dry.
In the Moroccan city of Goulmima there is a large street festival where people celebrate Ashura by wearing costumes, different skins of sheep and goats, and scary looking animal masks. In the Berber tradition, the costumed people are referred to as “Udayen n Ashur,” the Jews of Ashura. With only tambourines and handclaps, “Udayen n Ashur” creates lively music, performances of acrobatic dancers. Everyone sings and dances with amusing variations on the songs, until very late into the night.
Another Ashura tradition is throwing water at one another. This is another very common tradition in Morocco, especially if Ashura comes at the end of a hot spring or summer day. Moroccans are showered from head to toe whenever they’re caught outside. The Arabic speaking regions call this tradition “Zamzam.” The Berbers have a different name for each of the three days of Zamzam: The first day is “Bou Isnayen” the second, “Bou Imerwasen” and the third is, “Bou Imrazen.” These are translated as “the day of throwing water,” “the day of repayment,” and finally “the day of fight.” On any one of these days, if water is thrown at a person, they have the right to throw stones back.
On Ashura, children move from house to house, singing rhyming songs and collecting money and sweets. The songs are often prayers or offers of praise for kind and generous people. As a child, I always looked forward with overwhelming happiness to Ashura. The day before, my friends and I would prepare Ashura clothes and long necklaces from shells of the dead snails. When traveling from house to house, one of us used to lay down in a neighbors’ door and pretend to be dead while the rest sang sorrowful mourning songs personalized for each house, for example: ‘Oh! Mr. Lmakki, our friend has tragically passed away, if only you could bring him back to life, we would give you almonds and henna for your kids.” Nearly all the houses would offer us eggs, dates, almonds, and sometimes even money.
Larbi Arbaoui is a contributor to Morocco World News
Editing by Benjamin Villanti
This story is © Morocco World News.