- Title: MOROCCO: Moroccan women ride horses and fire guns in festival spectacle
- Date: 1st June 2008
- Summary: MAN FILLING RIFLE WITH GUN POWDER MAN FIRING RIFLE IN AIR
- Embargoed: 16th June 2008 13:00
- Location: Morocco
- Country: Morocco
- Topics: Arts / Culture / Entertainment / Showbiz,Lifestyle
- Reuters ID: LVAF4NTHC9IUJ3BPGSEMQCL9WEGD
- Story Text: For centuries, horse riding for pure entertainment in Morocco was a men-only affair, but a group of young women broke this male-dominated mastery by forming their 'Fantasia' team which has put on a show of gun blaze and strength during a festival marking women's contribution to Moroccan history and culture in the ancient city of Fes.
Riding horses has always been a male-dominated art in Morocco. But in 2003 a group of young women decided to break this male bastion and formed the first ever all-women's horse riding team called 'Fantasia,' which performs to large crowds across the country.
On Saturday (May 31), the women's team held a show of power and strength riding horses and firing rifles in the air, during a festival in the ancient city of Fes, marking 1200 years of history and culture. The festival was dedicated to aspects of Moroccan women's culture.
The display of horsemanship begins with a slow moving procession, where the women on horseback line up in close ranks and perform side by side or with several runs across the stadium, often while firing shots in the air. The performances are accompanied by the piercing cries of the riders and terse orders from their leader.
The gun fire shot during the riding has given the event its name - Eid al-Baroud (Festival of Gun powder).
The rifles used in the display are of the famous "Moukhahla" type, which is highly praised by gun collectors.
The horse-riding art has been a traditional art in Morocco and is considered a major attraction for tourists.
But while it is performed mostly by men, 17-year-old Kalthoum Hammou al-Haj, a leader of the young women's 'Fantasia' team, sees no reason her gender should not practice this art.
"We saw that women are now involved in every field alongside men and we said, why should not girls or women take part in this sport and show their strength and mastery of horse riding and also carry guns like men?" asked al-Haj.
The young women participating in the group are of at least 15 years of age. They were given the support of their families, who encouraged them to practice this aspect of Moroccan heritage as a hobby.
"I cry when my daughter succeeds in leading the group and when the run finishes with firing. Tears are running down my face. I wish her all the success in her hobby," Amal Saadaoui, mother of Kalthoum, said.
The show is one of a series of events marking 1,200 years of history and culture in the city of Fes. The year-long celebration incorporates a salute to women's role in the country's history. The decision to include women horse riders in the anniversary programme was meant as a testimony to the courage of the women who succeeded in joining men in one of their much guarded bastions, event organisers said.
Najat M'jid, a member of the organising committee, said that there should be no gender boundaries in culture.
"Culturally and until now, horse riding was a practice dominated and executed by men only. Because we are celebrating women's achievements in Moroccan history, we decided to show their past and future contribution in every aspect of life. Fantasia is an innovative field. It is extraordinary because it shows that culture cannot be sexist," M'jid said.
Experts said the skills performed by the women have not yet reached the level practised by men, but that does not discourage the young women, who by integrating into this long male-dominant art have made a big leap towards creating a more equal-gender society.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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