The Moroccan Festival celebrates its 11th edition

Mata Festival, a tribute to an ancient heritage

PHOTO - Festival Mata
photo_camera PHOTO - Mata Festival

The Mata International Equestrian Festival will celebrate its 11th edition from 2 to 4 June 2023 under the theme: "Cultural heritage and convergence of cultures". This equestrian festival will take place in Zniyed, Community of Larbaa of Ayacha, Moulay Abdeslam Circle, province of Larache, Wilaya Tangier-Tetouan-Hoceima.

Organised by the Alamia Laaroussia Social and Cultural Action Association, in partnership with the UNESCO International Festival of Cultural Diversity, this new edition is held under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

This 11th edition confirms the commitment of Mr. Nabil Baraka, President of the Mata International Equestrian Festival, to promote this authentic intangible heritage of northern Morocco preserved by the late Sidi Abdelhadi Baraka Naquib of Chorfas Alamiyin and our late grandfather Sidi Hadj Mohammed Baraka Naquib of Chorfas Alamiyin.

PHOTO - Festival Mata
PHOTO - Mata Festival

"Open to all continents, the Mata Festival is today a space for coexistence and cultural, social and economic exchange," says the festival's president, Nabil Baraka, and explains: "This annual event, whose main pillar is the Mata equestrian competition, contributes to preserving an ancestral heritage of immaterial civilisations and reviving centuries-old traditions of the region.

The event, which highlights the importance of the horse in the northern region, and pays tribute to these riders, also promotes the economic and tourism development of the northern and southern regions of the Kingdom by highlighting their many assets and promoting the products of their lands and whose rich and varied craftsmanship is world-renowned.

As in previous editions, a rich programme of on-site activities is presented. During the 3 days of the event, national and international guests and visitors will be able to travel back in history thanks to the magnificent competition of the ancestral tradition of the Mata Festival and discover the exhibitions of local products and Moroccan craftsmanship. The Mata Festival also offers its guests a series of Sufi singing evenings and local and national folklore shows, in addition to various activities organised over the three days: an awareness campaign on respect for the environment, games for children, etc.

PHOTO/SEEGERS - Festival Mata
PHOTO/SEEGERS - Mata Festival

"The local products and crafts fair is now a highlight of every edition of the Mata International Equestrian Festival. The Southern Provinces, a permanent guest of the festival, exhibit our products alongside the cooperatives of the Northern Region and allow our guests to discover the variety and richness of our respective local treasures. It is a demonstration of our commitment to the promotion of tourism, cultural and social dynamics, and our support for human development," explains Nabila Baraka, president of the Alamia Laaroussia Social and Cultural Action Association.

The 2022 edition welcomed more than 200,000 national and international visitors. The Mata competition attracted more than 240 riders from different tribes. 60 cooperatives from the south and north of Morocco, as well as Mauritania, were able to exhibit their products; in addition, a music festival animated by renowned artists such as L7OR, Abdelali Taounati, Houssa 46, Ouafae Senhajiya and Hanae El Mrini was enjoyed.

The programme of the 11th edition of the Music Festival will be surprising and rich in varieties of jebli and popular music, as well as an important moment to pay tribute to personalities of culture and sport..

PHOTO - Festival Mata
PHOTO - Mata Festival

Mata Festival, a world heritage site

Around Jbel Allam, the locals welcome spring by playing a particularly original game that requires courage, dexterity, flexibility, delicacy, intelligence and finesse from its practitioners. It is a game in which horse and rider, in perfect symbiosis, celebrate a legendary complicity and, above all, the ancestral culture of an extraordinary region. The Jbalas have called this game the Mata Festival.

Even today, the tribes of Bni Arous jealously preserve the tradition and scrupulously respect the rules of the game. After the harvesting of the wheat fields, first in the village of Aznid, then in other villages, the girls and women of the tribe in charge of this operation accompany it with their songs, their youyous and their famous a'iyou', to the sound of the bagpipes and drums specific to the region. It is these same women who make, with the help of reeds and cloth, the doll for which the most courageous riders of the Jebala country will compete, a region where the art of riding, breeding and training horses is specific to their culture. The riders participating in the game of "MATA" must ride bareback, dressed in the ancestral jellabas and amamas. 

According to oral tradition, the winner of the "Mata" game is the one who, using his skill and daring, manages to snatch the doll from the other riders and carry it away. He is then awarded a supreme reward: he is married off to the prettiest girl in the tribe.

The game 'Mata' is probably inspired by Bouzkachi, a similar but more violent game imported, according to legend, by Moulay Abdeslam lbn Mashich during his visit to Ibn Boukhari. Bouzkachi, practised in Afghanistan, has as its stake the carcass of a goat for which riders fight in brutal jousts that result in numerous injuries.

This annual event celebrates a culture in which the sense of honour is rehabilitated, faith is rooted, patriotism is a Sufi school, a spiritual school and a universal value; all the humanist wealth bequeathed by the great Quotb Moulay Abdeslam Ibn Mashich to the Chorfas Alamiyines, to the Tarika Mashichiya Shadhiliya and to the inhabitants of this exceptional region.

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