Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Regraga and the history of the Baraka

Regraga Moussem
Regraga are the descendants of Chorfa (a family whose genealogy is traced back to the prophet p.u.h) of the Chiadma region, to the north of Essaouira. Their ancestors made pilgrimage to Mecca where they received the blessing of the prophet Mohamed (p.u.h) and introduced the Koran in Morocco long before even the conquest of Islam to the north of Africa.
Every year in March, their Moussem is organized here to commemorate on the one hand the Islamization of this region, and on the other hand to announce the beginning of the spring season. They are given a special ovation during their itinerary (daour) that starts from the Zaouia of Sidi Ali Bouali and ends in the zaouia of Sidi Ali Maachou. The journey lasts 38 days and includes 44 stages where the faithful pilgrims break their journey at the different cemeteries where their saints and ancestors were buried.
This Moussem can be considered as the oldest marabou movement not only in the region, but also in Morocco. The erection of "Khaima " the tent at the beginning of the daour is a custom that characterizes this Moussem, and it is always present during the tour, except in the city of Essaouira. It characterizes the power given to the Chorfa which they transmit to visitors and claimants of the Baraka. The "khaima " finally collapses the last day to signal the end of the Moussem and to make the promise of a return the following year.
The majority of pilgrims are from the Chiadma region, but some of them come from different Moroccan regions to attend the tour or to welcome the Regraga in one of their sanctuaries. Essaouira city represents the most hospitable stage where the devoted families throughout the Kingdom gather to feast in groups together.
On each stage of these, people and tents move from one village and sanctuary to another, in an ambiance of fraternity and tolerance. The young and old pilgrims and the inhabitants who live near the visited sanctuaries visit this funfair. Very early in the morning, a hectic day is born; the tumultuous movement turns the scene into a stage of perpetual rebirth. Caf├ęs are already open to serve their early-rising clients glasses of hot mint tea, and bowls of soup. Butchers, grocers, and green grocers are there for the annual rendez –vous too. Some visitors come and go among the scattered tents at the foot of the mountain or in the valley, while others sip tea under the soft shade of an olive tree or in a tent tea shop.
The return journey to Essaouira takes place at the beginning of April and particularly on a Thursday. Crowds of people including the city dignitaries made them an exceptionally rapturous welcome. Regraga religious cortege is generally expected in the industrial estate, the starting point for the big tour towards the Zaouiat in the city centre.
The prominent star of this procession is "Laaroussa" (the bride) that is actually a man wearing white clothes, and riding a white mare, both symbols of spiritual purity. This person becomes the centre of attention. He is surrounded by hundreds of people who try to touch and ask him for his blessing while throwing cash offerings in his hands. During the big march towards the zaouiat, prayers to bless the region and its inhabitants, to heal patients and to help the poor are pronounced. A divine ambiance of piety and devotion reigns in this marvelous atmosphere of feast and prayers.
Gnaoua and Hamadcha musical bands accompany the cortege to play a mixture of music that transcends reality to form a make-believe world of beauty through trance and religious chants. Members of Regraga brotherhood precede the crowds to escort a big wooden safe that contains gifts offered along the journey. They made Offerings of ready money, livestock for sacrifice or sugar as a sign of peace and pleasantness. In exchange, they expect Regraga's Baraka (blessings) which is believed to heal the sick, to help the poor or to guarantee a good sowing season and therefore a good harvest.
In the middle of the day, Regraga followers go to nearby peripheral village called Diabet. There they are also very well received. For lunch, they have a ceremony dish of couscous with fresh vegetables, dry fruit and boiled eggs. Providing food for Regraga involves most villages in the region. This act of generosity helps this tradition. The day of their arrival, the locals invite the pilgrims in for dinner to perpetuate this tradition and the concomitant values of hospitality, generosity and tolerance. After dinner, prayers are made for the family that has warmly received them.
On Friday, after the midday prayer, Regraga get ready to leave the city to continue their journey to other destinations and sanctuaries, taking with them their Baraka which they wish to spread over the entire region.
The Moussem of Regraga is not only a religious tour, but also an important socio-economic boost to the poverty-stricken region of Chaidma. It is a Moussem where all trades are in demand ranging from shoemaker, jeweler, tailor to ambulant vendors. It is a non-negligible source of income support that is associated with these spiritual rituals.

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