Saturday was a strange day, not starting quite as we had planned but turned into one of those days that will be etched into our memories forever!
Our local village was hosting their annual fantasia festival this Saturday. It was off to a rocky start with a morning of thunder showers, but nothing was going to dampen the local spirits. Our village literally has a few hundred inhabitants, a small mosque and that is pretty much it, not that you would say so with the invasion of white tents and thousands of people from nearby areas and even a few from outside judging by the odd smattering of English yelled here and there.
The fantasia is the highlight and main attraction of the weekend’s festivities.
Fantasia is a way of keeping Moroccan history alive, with the amazingly groomed horses (Barbs) ridden by rather gallant gentleman dressed in their white garb. The name fantasia is a western name, whilst the traditional name means “game of gunpowder”!
It is a recreation of the old tribal battles of the Maghreb and involves a dozen or so men (per group) on horseback charging down in a row and then firing off shots in unison from old gunpowder guns at the end. There are some fine displays of horsemanship, beautiful saddles and outfits.
There are a variety of stalls selling fruit and vegetables, meat, mint tea and the usual variety of Chinese plastic objects that seem to pop up in every corner of the world!!
And of course none of it would be complete without the street food, mint tea, kofta, merguez sausages, flat breads, salted chickpeas and fava beans in paper cones and the variety of sweets, peanuts, nougats and brittle that can be found all over Morocco.
It is also a highly social event and each family has a white tent set up where they can drink tea and entertain guests and generally spend all night catching up with friends and acquaintances in a festive atmosphere.
We were guests of a family that have graciously hosted us in their home before and it was in their home we had one of our first introductions to the hospitality that Moroccans are renowned for. All of course with copious amounts of the obligatory mint tea! The need for a translator has given way to a comfortable communication between us in a combination of (very) basic Arabic and hand gestures. My best is not having to sit inside the main tent and the formality of this environment, but to be invited into the kitchen tent where the woman all sit and gossip, cook the meal, sip mint tea and fuss over their children running in and out the tent. And being introduced to the newest family member!
I don’t understand much they say, but love the way that they accept me into their fold and are just happy to carry on as normal and I can happily observe the way they prepare the tea, tagines and couscous. Whilst their lives differ so much in contrast to mine, I cannot help feel comfortable in this place where the craziness of the world doesn’t seem to matter so much.
On the menu was a juicy, fall off the bone, lamb, onion and olive tagine and a sumptuous plate of couscous, simply cooked with some steamed pumpkin and turkey broth followed by a simple dessert of fresh grapes and watermelon.