Morocco children of every age are celebrating Morocco’s Festival of Achoura, or the tenth day of Muharram, which falls on January 19 th this year. Families traditionally gather together to have special meals and offer zakat or a tenth of their annual income to the poor. Street celebrations, bonfires, and fireworks are other common ways of celebrating.

Trade, in toys and Taarija drums, is busy as the holiday gets closer. Stores of every size from the working class neighborhood shops to large shopping centers stock new merchandise just for the Achoura celebration. Dolls, plastic guns, cars, masks, and every other toy imaginable are available. Toys for every budget make choices for the children and family difficult to make.

Some of the shop keepers will even put toys on the floor so that the smallest of the shoppers have access. In addition to the toys, sales of the Taarija drums are brisk this time of year. They are a long time tradition of the Morocco festival. Children and adults will usually buy a new drum every season. Some have been collecting the Moroccan drums for many years. Friends and families will meet on the big day to play their drum while singing and dancing in Morocco.

Children take the celebrations to the street during the Achoura Festival. Most of them are waiting in anticipation for the big day of Zem Zem. Sharing a name with a well in Mecca, children are free to spray other children and adults with water. Bonfires are lit when evening comes. Participants, wearing new clothes, will sing, leap, and dance around the fires late into the night.

In prior years children would set off rockets. This activity has been banned by the government because lack of supervision lead to many serious accidents involving children. Rocket sales are still made by the black market traders and in outlying villages. Families will meet together for a special meal of dried fruits and couscous with guedid (dried mutton). Moroccans will light candles and visit the dead in cemeteries to offer prayers for them.

The final component of Achoura Festival is the offering of zakat. Achoura comes from the Arabic word for ten, achara. During the festival, Moroccans offer zakat or a tenth of their money earned in the previous year to the poor.

Moroccan Muscians

by Carole Morris

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