Saturday, May 20, 2017

chanting and the chopping of hands

It was the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed that had given me the extra day off work for us to make the nine hour drive to Figuig. Unbeknownst to us, the sleepy oasis town at that particular time of year transforms into a major festival, with the few available hotel rooms booked weeks in advance— we were so lucky to have found a place to stay!

Figuig's little streets were bustling with ladies wrapped in white, men flooded the cafés, and there seemed to be several important celebrations to attend. After dinner on our second night, we decided to take a walk into the centre to see what we could see. A large white tent had been erected just past the cafés, which drew my curiosity as I saw women flocking there in large numbers. Pedro was unable to follow me inside, so he went off in search of a mint tea.

Women of all ages filled the tent and its surrounding area. I found a spot to stand on the right outer edge of the tent, by one of its supporting poles. Colourful fireworks lit up the sky, while elder ladies in white gathered closer to each other in the centre, their eyes lined dramatically in kohl, with red headbands decorated in silver encircling the tops of their white hijabs. A sweet incense scented the air, while some women began chanting softly.

Encouraged by the selfie-snapping and recording that was taking place around me (all by Moroccans), I tried filming the chanting that was building, but within minutes the lady in light blue standing in the above picture made a gesture to indicate that she would chop off all our hands. This caused some embarrassed giggles from my fellow photographers, which made our hand chopper break out into a wide grin.

Once our cameras were safely away, a brazier with glowing coals was brought to the elder women in the centre, one of whom began to heat the skin of a large, flat, circular drum. She beat it with wrinkled hands from time to time, and once it had reached a tone that pleased her, the chanting began, accompanied by a mesmerizing rhythm. The only words I could understand from their lips were Mohammed and Allah. Later on Pedro and I met up to return to our guest house, where the melodic chanting from a gathering of men crept in through a pipe in our bathroom, going on deep into the night.

No comments: