Moroccan Games

In Morocco; games for both children and adults may differ greatly from the games we play in the West, but they are a great reflection of the creativity and artistry which starts from a very early age. Unlike in the West where children frequently spend more time in front of the TV, in Morocco, children spend more time playing outdoors, and the beautiful weather is probably a good reason for this. Outside, children will use the natural environment in which to make their own toys and create imaginary games.  Musical instruments such as flutes, drums, and whistles are carved out of the environment using vegetables, animal bones and intestines!

The natural environment provides a great deal of materials for children to build a variety of different toys to keep themselves entertained for hours. Materials such as water, fire, earth, sand, clay, paint stones, flowers, hair, skin, and animal bones are utilised to create their own world of imaginary play. Children will create small houses out of stones and make dolls out of whatever they can find. They’ll make their own simple version of spin the top by pushing a stick through the centre of an old lid or anything else they can lay their hands on.

There are some traditional games they play too, as part of large or small groups; these can be anything from soccer, to a game of kick and catch. This can include four or more players with one rag ball and between them they must compete to make 10 catches in a row without dropping the ball. Another ball game features the use of rocks and a small ball. There are also board games which are used mostly by young adults such as Mancala, and more modern games which include Marrakesh,

a carpet laying game! There is also Marracash, which is a marketplace game and sounds very much like an African version of Monopoly! Card games include Ronda; a fishing game for 2 to 4 players, and numerous other games going by the names of Ch’kamba, Venta Solo, and Nouffi.

Although they may not always have the same luxuries as those in the West, Moroccans are easily able to utilise the materials around them in order to provide their own entertainment, something which we in the West seem to have forgotten. It reminds us of a world we in the West seem to have left behind.

The supernatural, religion and art

Some Moroccan beliefs came before Islam, but today they sit alongside each other side by side. This is probably one of the most fascinating things about Morocco, the new religion living alongside the older more traditional beliefs of the rural Berber communities. Some of the Berber beliefs are frowned upon by those who have embraced Islam over the years, but they have continued to exist despite this. One of the most fascinating Berber beliefs is Animism: the belief that animals and objects can be animated by spirits. Much of Moroccan art has been influenced by Berber rural beliefs and traditions; while Islam has had more influence on urban art. The representations of animals and humans, although not necessarily approved of by Islam continue to feature in some artwork today, although perhaps less so in the work created for the tourist industry. There is great faith in the supernatural powers in Morocco today as there is faith in Allah, and there is a heritage of artistic traditions that live alongside the Muslim faith.

Berbers believe in the existence of Baraka and this is deeply entrenched in Moroccan religious beliefs and goes some way to in understanding some Moroccan art. Baraka is related to the power of the Sufi brotherhood and their Saints. Baraka can be found in jewellery, talismans, ceramics and textiles. It can often help an artist reach a higher and deeper level of understanding while he is working and help him to express himself creatively. Through his art the Berber artisan can help ward off dark spirits through potent symbols and motifs. Younger Moroccans no longer truly believe in the Baraka apart from some of the older Moroccans and the Berbers themselves.

Numerology also has a large part to play in Moroccan beliefs with the numbers 3, 5, 7, 9 and their multiples being significant as they are believed to have magic properties. Magic squares come with vertical and diagonal lines in them with numbers that add up to the same answer whichever way they are counted up and give protection against the evil eye. Those considered the most vulnerable and impressionable to the evil eye are babies, pregnant women and new brides. The evil eye is given out in the form of stares and glances from people that can cause bad luck, artists incorporate preventative measures into their work so as to ward off the evil eye and the djoun.

The djoun is an evil spirit that can come in the form of an animal and they are also known as “Those Others,” they come from underground dwellings to haunt humans and to wreak havoc. They can take the form of cats, dogs, and the djoun can be seen represented in weaving, embroidery, jewellery, and leatherwork. The hand and the eye can also offer great protection from the evil eye and djoun. The hand represents the number five and both the hand and eye are also featured heavily in embroidery and jewellery.

So although some artwork created for the tourist industry may not necessarily incorporate some of these more ancient and potent symbols, Islam and Berber beliefs still act as a catalyst for Moroccan art and give a fascinating insight into the beliefs and traditions of Moroccan people.

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Pillow Adventure Travel Company Ltd is an independent UK based tour company, founded in 2007, offering adventure tours to Morocco, Egypt, India and Nepal.

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