Tbourida, Guns and Fresh Baked Bread...

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February 3rd 2013
Published: February 16th 2013
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February 3, 2013:

Sunday is our only day off posted on the schedule, although we are supposed to do self-directed learning, i.e. cultural experiences. On February 3, 2013, we did just that! In a big way! We will explain…

In Morocco, there is a long honored tradition of charging down a narrow field on horses and brandishing weapons. At the end of the charge, the weapons are fired and shouts of victory are bellowed. It is a grand spectacle to behold.

Before we begin our story, let us first introduce you to the art of Tbourida. Here is a short excerpt from the web:

Origin and history

The word Tbourida is an Arabic term that means ostentation. It derives from the word Baroud, which means the gun powder traditionally put in Jezzails. It is the event demanding both perfection and cohesion. It is a traditional art, where horse riders charge simultaneously and fire their Jezzails towards the sky at the end of the charge. Bardiya means riders in Arabic dialect and is a word derived from Tbourida, now considered to be a noble art within our Moroccan cultural heritage.

This popular art dates back to the fifteenth century and refers to the heroism of the horse riders and warriors, whose praises are sung and glorified by the Baroud with the Jezzail. "Tbourida was used in the Harkates, which means the attack of a tribe to another" said Dr. Zouzi, president of the association of popular art and social affairs in Skhour Rhamna. During those battles, the horse riders of each tribe had to defend the pride of their tribe against their opponents. To own a horse and to be a Bardi (horse rider at the Tbourida) is a huge honor for the tribe, and each tribe has its own way of demonstrating its pride. This used to be an art reserved for nobles and the wealthier members of the tribe. Nowadays, however, anyone can purchase a horse and join a Tbourida team. "It is an ancestral art that is transmitted from father to son and it is easier to become a Bardi if your relatives and ancestors were Bardi" said Dr. Zouzi.

The Tbourida today responds to specific rules in direct affiliation with its roots. In a bordered field about two hundred meters long, teams of three to twenty riders perform for the pleasure of their guests. Spaced around the ground, magnificent tents welcome the contestants and their guest during the days of each festival. Tbourida is part of the Moroccan traditional folklore and it is celebrated in several occasions including "Moussems" or festivals. This art is taught from early childhood, following the Prophet Mohamed's instruction to "teach your children swimming, archery and cavalry."

- http://www.yacout.info/Tbourida-an-Ancestral-Moroccan-Art-Still-Alive_a115.html

Our video of of our host family's Tbourida team

Now back to our regularly scheduled kessa (or story)

Our family happens to be full of Tbourida champions. The father is a renowned rider and two of his younger children are experts in their own right. There are many trophies and awards that reinforce that fact adorning the walls and shelves in our home. On this completely beautiful and sunny day, our family invited us to watch Khadija’s (our 17 year old sibling) Tbourida team practicing for an upcoming festival. It should be noted that Tbourida is traditionally an all-male sport. However, Khadija is constantly breaking the stereotypes set for women in Morocco!
She not only is in charge of the team, she is the coach as well. When she is among the men, she commands respect and it is very inspiring to see. But we get ahead of ourselves.

Once we were told that we were going to see the “horses,” we had no idea what to expect. Why would we? Hamza (our 12 year old brother) went to “get” the car from wherever it lives. We don’t have a garage. So Hamza apparently drives the car through our town to the house and parks it out front. Seriously?!?! So we began our journey with our 20 year old “sister” driving us (in a car that is not stationed at our house) about 20 minutes outside of town (her use of the clutch was scary as was the unintended game of “chicken” on the road). We had a lovely drive through the countryside that was and we were dropped off near a bunch of people and some men on horses about 4 miles outside of town. The rest of the host family left in the car and headed down the road to a destination we did not know, but figured it
was to prepare lunch. We were the subject of some stares, but we are used to that by now. Eventually, our 17 year old “sister” appeared, in her pajamas and with her hair down. Now, the pajamas part may seem strange even in the US but pajamas and hair down here is unheard of. However, Khadija is one-of-a-kind as you can see from the photos and from what we describe.

Basically, the horse and rider walk down the field and then turn around. Then, they go full speed ahead towards the crowd of people and stop abruptly at the same time, firing their rifles, hopefully, in unison. This exercise was not performed very well the first time, but it did get better and better as the practices wore on. Khadija was yelling at the men and critiquing their performances and they were listening and heeding her advice!!!! Unless you were here, you would not really understand how culture is turned upside down by her. It is awesome!

After practice, we followed the horses and some people (who seemed to be keeping an eye on us in a good way) down the road, a pathway and then a road
again. We were hoping that we were going in the right direction to find the rest of the family. Clay pointed out that we were following fresh horse saliva and that solidified our path! Eventually we heard and saw the horses, as well as a bunch of men (no women except Khadija) standing around outside. We admired the horses for a bit and talked with a couple of men that we had met previously. We use the term “talked” lightly… more like gestured, pointed and laughed. The home where we were to eat lunch was a more “countryside” home, with stone walls, almost no windows and absolutely no doors inside. We are thinking that this situation keeps it from being so hot in summer-time, which we hear gets about 110 degrees. This year, Ramadan will be in July, and most of the country will be hot-hot-hot. Add to the weather, the fasting and no fluids all during the daytime and ask yourselves (as have we) - - will there by anyone to teach during that time? (Stay tuned to find out!)

Anyway, there was an outside stone oven in a small hut (you cannot stand up in there, see
pictures) where bread is baked. Our teacher had a photo taken of herself, in which she acted like she cooked bread (again, she is a very independent woman from the big city of Rabat, and informed us she has never cooked bread). The women mostly stayed in the kitchen (“kuseena”) cooking and chatting and the men talked and hung out in their own room and were served large amounts of hot tea. Ann sat outside and observed kids and animals. So, two hours later (no kidding), we were ready to eat. You must also know that Sunday was a VERY cold day and even in the sun, several layers and a jacket were required outside AND inside. It is often colder inside than outside.

Here is where the stories must be independent. Why? It is because the men/boys have the meal in one room and the women/girls in different room. The males eat in a room where they sit on the floor in a well carpeted and sunny room on comfortable cushions and the females eat in a dark room on hard couches. This is not the craziest part - - the men eat first and finish before the
women may sit down and eat. In fact, Clay came out after lunch and asked Ann how she liked the meal she just ate and she huffed, saying “I haven’t eaten yet!” Heaven forbid the men needed something while women might dare to eat!!!

Clay’s story: So there I was… standing in a room full of men and boys who did not speak English, 6,000 miles from the U.S. and wondering how this situation would work out. As I looked around at the men staring at me, I could not help but wonder what they might be thinking. I am pretty sure that I knew the answer right away… “Who is this clown and why is he in our man cave?!?!?!” OK, maybe not exactly that, but I am sure that was close. I knew I needed an in but for the life of me, I couldn’t think of one. But because of digital magic, I found my chink in their armor! PICTURES!!! Everyone loves pictures! In a countryside that barely has electricity, digital cameras can provide an instant gratification for those who just want to see how funny he/she looks at that moment. So, I began to take
pictures of the men and boys and as I clicked each picture, I would then show the picture to the person or persons. Usually, when I do this, I will get a smile or nod but as I realized that the men did not want to smile for the camera (Moroccan men seldom do.), I made it a point to make each one do just that. In fact, I enlisted the help of the others in the room by showing them the pictures of the men who did not smile. We would then tease each man about his stoic face. This gentle razzing became quite the sport and soon I was able to get all the pictures of smiling men that I wanted. Hamdulla!

After what seemed to be only minutes, but was in reality closer to hours, the men, including myself, gather around several small tables. These tables are only 18 inches off the ground and we sat on the floor around it. I was starving and so I was very excited to see the very large basket of bread (freshly baked outside in the ovens) and a large platter of baked chickens with dates and olives. Now
this meal may sound odd, but I assure you that the Moroccan spices used in this dish made it an extraordinary experience. There were roughly 8 men seated at my table and we were given 4 or 5 chickens on our platter. Now, for those of you who do not know, Moroccans do not eat with silverware. They eat with bread and they use their right hands. Also, there are no drinks at a meal, but there is a pitcher of water and a communal glass. (I doubt that the eating situation appeals too many of you in the States. Hahaha!) Did I mention that eating seems to be a sport of speed and agility? I have never seen such skill and dexterity when it comes to using just one hand to eat a whole chicken! I, as the guest, received many calls to “Akul!!! Akul!!!” (Eat!!! Eat!!! In Darija) and would frequently find that pieces of choice chicken (including the livers and hearts) or the best fruits were placed before me. When I could eat no more, I had to push the bread from in front of me and say, “sbhat!” (I’m full!) Of course my new friends did
not believe me but they seemed to let me off the hook with just a little razzing. As I took a drink from the water glass (now quite speckled with unidentified food particles), I began to relax and just enjoy the company. A man came and cleared the platter that held the stripped chicken carcasses… and when I say they were stripped, I mean that there was not ANYTHING left but bone. As I sat there thinking of how wonderful this meal experience had been and how much I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, the man who had cleared the large platter returned. This time, he was carrying an equally large platter piled high with l-lhm (meat). WHAT!?!?! I thought we had just eaten our meal! No wonder the men were laughing when I said that I was full. Round two would hurt, but I am a trooper, so I grabbed my discarded bread and dug in. The beef fared no better than the chicken and before long, nothing was left but bones on a platter and my bloated belly! However, one of the men reached out and lifted a large beef bone, it appeared to be a shank bone,
and out plopped the largest mass of cooked marrow I had ever seen. I couldn’t help myself and I asked it the marrow was fair game. I was encouraged to eat it and I did so with delight! After the last and most delicious bite, I was incredibly happy to see the serving fellow return again to take away the platter. I could not even bear to look at the plate without feeling like I had eaten a complete Thanksgiving dinner by myself. But, the man, who I used to like so well just a short time ago, returned with yet another dish. I honestly thought to myself that there is no way on Earth or anywhere else that I could possibly fit another morsel into my gut. As I was thinking that and also, at the same time, contemplating how I could feign my own death, the man places the largest bowl of couscous (with milk) that I have ever seen. Think of a hot breakfast cereal but in an enormous bowl and eating said dish AFTER Thanksgiving dinner. I hurt just remembering it. So after my few (very few) gratuitous bites, I just quit. The men, with whom
I shared a table, teased me for my lack of pacing skills and smiled at my misery… all in fun of course. When the server returned, I secretly wish many bad things upon him… but I have since withdrawn that wish. This time he cleared the table and returned, yet again, with a GIANT plate of fruit!!! SERIOUSLY?!?!?! The man next to me obviously thought that I was afraid or incapable of peeling my own orange, so he did it for me. In fact, he peeled several for me and I was ever so thankful for his kindness. J When ALL the food had been eaten, the stories shared, the tea drunk and the praises to God said, we returned to our places against the walls and lounged on pillows for a short time. After this respite, the men needed to return to the practice of their art and I just needed to walk. I thank them all kindly for their hospitality and they welcomed me to join them anytime I wished… and I will. Inshallah. It was at this time that I left the room and saw Ann sitting in the adjoining room and asked her how her meal
was. (ooops.)

Ann’s story: Before eating, my host mother brought a bowl and pitcher for me to wash my hands. I hold my hands over the bowl and she pours the water over them. I liked this part, particularly because I touched some horses and was contemplating what I was going to do about it. Pretty much everyone engaged in this ritual.

When everyone sat down, about seven women were around the short table, covered in a plastic tablecloth. The table-cloth is efficient because after meals it is taken off and crumbs shaken off. There were also girl children and babies. The first course was a whole chicken in some yummy sauce with olives and dates, accompanying, of course, Khobz (the round bread). You sop up the juice and then tear apart the chicken at the table (all on a communal plate). You eat the food in the intangible triangle in front of you. Women kept putting torn off chicken in front of me, as I was a “guest.” I have learned to push it towards other people with some bread if I am full. You use the bread because putting your fingers on people’s food in the
communal plate would be nasty.

Next, we had a communal plate of some meat chunks and some more dates and plums with yummy sauce. Same procedure but of course, I am breaded out. When people notice I am not eating, they keep telling me: “Kulee, kulee” - - - meaning, eat, eat and putting more in front of me. It is seriously not easy to say no because it is considered an insult not to eat the portion put in front of you and as a guest, you get the best stuff.

Once the plate was finished, I sighed with relief. As an aside, all during lunch, the women are chatting things I totally cannot understand. Sometimes they talk to me and I try my best to answer (I have one word answers now assuming I understand what they are saying and l-Hamdullah is always appropriate). I found out later that most of the time the women were speaking Berber, a native language which is nothing like Darija.

As the food is gone and I am starting do feel more comfortable, ANOTHER dish arrives with something that looks like mashed potatoes, but it is smushy rice. Delicious
yes, but I am FULL!!! Next, a plate of bananas and oranges hit the table. At home, I have learned to say “Sah-fee” (enough) or “Sah-baht” (I am full) but that does not work at a party (and actually, rarely at home).

I am lucky that we were provided our own glasses and water to drink. I could not have stomached hot mint tea, then, despite the coldness.

BACK TO our joint adventure, we finished the day by going back to watch some more horse practice and then we were driven home by our older “sister.” Along the way, we stopped by the little store (han-noot) and got some Moroccan donuts. When Ann got home, she went to bed with a headache and Clay ended up having the donuts which he says, ROCKED!

Sunday was a serious cultural experience to the nth degree. We were very lucky to be included in that experience and we are equally happy to share it with all of you.

Additional photos below
Photos: 84, Displayed: 34



19th February 2013

Loved your story. It was all so interesting. Do they eat like that all the time? How do they stay so trim? Loved the video and all the pictures. The sky over there is such a beautiful shade of blue. Enjoyed seeing pictures of the oven outside. How long does it take to bake bread in that? The family pictures were wonderful, as were the pictures taken inside. Love the doors! I cannot imagine eating only with my right hand and no silverware. How is the meat or chicken torn apart with your right hand only? Way to difficult for me!!!! Take care-Love you guys!
26th February 2013

Aunt P:
Glad you are enjoying the blog. It does not take too long to cook the bread and it is delicious! We are hoping not to become to round (like the bread)!

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