Tan-Tan Moussem Festival showcases heritage
Tan-Tan - Ululating, cheering and screaming could be heard during camel races at the 12th Tan- Tan Moussem Festival at the Peace and Tolerance Square near Tan-Tan in south-western Morocco.
The 6km camel race track was inaugurated by Sheikh Sultan bin Hamdan al-Nahyan, adviser to the United Arab Emirates president and president of the UAE Camel Federation Committee.
An electrifying atmosphere filled the air as race fans followed jockeys in four-wheel-drive jeeps on one side of the track and the latest Range Rovers on the other, giving a contrasting picture of authenticity and modernity to a UN cultural agency-listed festival.
Heritage was the big winner as tribes came from various regions of south-western Morocco to compete and enjoy the opportunity to meet other people at the Moussem.
Spectators enjoyed Moroccan and Emirati traditions. The UAE’s traditionally dressed participants performed Al Ayala dance to poetic songs, followed by Moroccan Issawa wearing handmade outfits and singing mystical songs to the drumbeat.
The UAE was taking part for a third consecutive year in the Tan- Tan Moussem, adding its Bedouin culture and heritage to the event. The similarities with Morocco’s Sahrawi are striking: They both share a traditional lifestyle based on riding camels, living in tents and reading and singing poetry in the barren wilderness.
Overseen by an experienced Emirati judging panel, the two-round camel milking competition saw last year’s record broken by more than a litre. Some camels fiercely resisted the milking process by kicking. Milk was splashed all over. One of the competitors could be heard asking a photographer to move away from the camel because noises might hinder the animal’s output.
“My goal is to take part in the Moussem to revive our Sahrawi heritage and try to be among the winners,” said Ahmad al-Omari from Tan-Tan, who had two camels in the contest.
The camel beauty contest, known as mazaynah, consisted of two rounds. The first had judges deciding which was the most beautiful camel based on criteria such as the neck, leg straightness and ear firmness. The second round involved five camels for each participant.
Skin rash was blatant on some camels, a sign of their owners’ negligence, said one of the judges. The Abu Dhabi Advanced Scientific Group distributed leaflets on ways to cure such diseases by using cheap remedies, such as bleached water.
“I didn’t know about this method. Is it really effective?” a camel owner asked a technician.
Far from the camels, about 20 tribes entertained the crowd at Peace and Tolerance Square with their proficiency with guns, firing them at the end of a 100-metre horse race.