“The biggest challenge is just being accepted,” said the leader of the all-women riding team.
German channel DW has released a riveting documentary called “Morocco’s warrior women” that follows one woman, Afrae Ben Bih, as she leads a team of women to compete in the country’s traditional Fantasia equestrian event.
Shared on June 25, the documentary joins Afrae and her riding troupe as they prepare to participate in Fantasia, known in Morocco as Tbourida.
Fantasia is a traditional Moroccan exhibition of horsemanship, exemplifying the strong relationship between horse and rider. The colorful display features a group of horse riders dressed in traditional attire riding in synchrony while firing rifles.
Every year, some 500 riders — almost all men — participate in the Fantasia event in Mediouna, near Casablanca. Afrae and her troupe are challenging the status quo as one of the few women’s teams intent on participating.
“The biggest challenge is just being accepted,” Afrae, 25, says in the documentary.
“There are people who don’t want women to participate. They think girls ought to stay at home and take care of household chores instead of riding horses, because that’s a man thing. But that’s not true,” she underlined.
“On the contrary, the Prophet [Muhammad] even recommended riding. He said, ‘teach your children,’ he did not say, ‘teach the boys.’”
Afrae learned how to ride horses from her father, who is also a Fantasia rider. It is custom to pass down the art from generation to generation.
After spending her childhood on horseback, Afrae established a female equestrian troupe in 2012 at the age of 18 and has been “addicted” to the art of Fantasia ever since.
The documentary describes Afrae and fellow rider Sanaa El Moustache as part of a new generation of liberated Moroccan women. Leading an equestrian troupe in Fantasia would have once been impossible for women in Morocco, but as the country continues to undergo social change, what was once deemed unacceptable is now a source of pride for Afrae and her family.
In 2004, the Fantasia festival, for the first time in Morocco’s history, allowed the participation of a women’s team. Afrae is committed to carrying the torch and breaking down gender barriers by increasing women’s participation in the male-dominated event.