After the Fes medina and tanneries, my friend and I were quite tired – so tired, in fact, that we almost missed the mass of tents that cropped up to our left as we drove back to Ifrane. When he noticed them, my friend began shouting incomprehensibly gesticulating and jumping as much as his seatbelt would allow him. Turns out we’d stumbled on a Fantasia, a traditional horseback musket shooting competition difficult to track down for those outside local circles. My friend has even traveled to Essaouira, quite a ways from Rabat, to attend one.
He joyfully parked, and we ran over wet, muddy trenches and mounds of dust and into a scent cloud of popcorn and fried meat. We joined a circle of shouting, whooping, colorfully-dressed Moroccans of all ages, gathered around an enclosure or creatively piled on available surfaces. Under the setting sun, the crowd encouraged traditionally dressed riders – men and women, young and old – as they galloped and attempted to shoot their muskets in sync with one another. In a rare turn of events, my friend and I were two of three non-Moroccans at the event, and were able to practice our language skills quite thoroughly. It would have been nice to know the translations for “stampede,” “charge” and “Get the _____ out of the way!” beforehand, but hey – ignorance adds to the adventure, right?
Here’s proof that I was there, talking to a Francophone journalist (that’s right):
Next Week: The predatory wasp of the Palisades comes to the Al Akhawayn Cafe