Marrakech Celebrates Ashura & Zam Zam

This weekend saw the celebration of "Ashura" and "Zam Zam".

Ashura falls in Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, and has its roots within both Jewish and Islamic tradition. For the Jewish community it is marked by a fasting on the 10th day of the month to commemorate the rescue of Moses from Pharaoh. For Muslims the day has slightly different tradition for Shia and Sunni. For the Shia the day marks the death of Hussein Ibn Abi Talib (grandson of Muhammad) who was beheaded in the battle of Karbala.

In Sunni Morocco Ashura is more closely aligned to the deliverance of Moses. The lengthy Jewish history in Morocco and the prominence of celebration and festival in the Berber tradition has meant that Ashura has extended beyond its traditional boundaries and is clearly a celebration.

Music is important and this is evidenced in Marrakech by children playing small drums in the streets in the early evening. This is an upbeat celebration and is accompanied by play, laughter and the knocking on doors. This was all prominent in the local street.

Mixed in with Ashura is "Zam Zam". The name is shared with the sacred well in Mecca but here Zam Zam is the throwing of water over people and is thought to have stemmed from the ritual bathing for Ashura that has evolved over time. For the children this means the throwing of water over adults (but not the tourists. For some reason it isn't widely appreciated by visitors).

However, in the Berber tradition the event is broken into three phases, the day of throwing water, the day of repayment, and the day of fight. If water is thrown at a Berber person tradition says they have the right to throw stones in return. We didn't see a lot of water throwing by the children; in the Berber city of Marrakech!

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