I've gathered together a few short dance and cultural video clips from my recent visit to Morocco, posted to my YouTube account.
Berber women traditional dancing and singing
This was taken in a restaurant in Marrakesh. The dance style is Berber from the Atlas Mountains and is characterised by earthy hip movements, twists and pelvic tilts. This is a huge amount of fun and the chemistry between the women combined with changes in pace - "dance for a bit...get tired...sing for a bit...dance for a bit" reminded me of the Ghawazee dancers from the South of Egypt.
The costume is Atlas Berber. The dress is in two parts. Firstly a high necked, long sleeved underdress worn to make sure that the whole body is covered. On top is a tunic with a very long and full skirt, tucked into the belt to give the hips extra volume to emphasise the movement. There are then two long lengths of rope like wool, decorated with big sequins. One is tied several times around the hips as a belt and the other in a sort criss-cross backpack style and around the bottom. These add back in the feminine shape to help exaggerate every movement. The look is topped off with a headdress and babouches (slippers).
Moroccan Horsemen perform the Fantasia at Chez Ali, Marrakesh
This is a very short clip of the dramatic charge and gunfire, "Fantasia", of the Moroccan horseman. This traditional art was showcased at Chez Ali - a sort of Moroccan Disneyland theme restaurant a few mile outside of Marrakesh. The night, also called Fantasia, is on a typical package type itinerary for many a tourist to Morocco. However, this doesn't detract away from the sheer skill involved in performing this manoeuvre.
Cooperative Marjana, Essaouira, Morocco
This clip is the highlight of my recent visit to Morocco, taken at the argan oil women's beauty Cooperative Marjana, about 30 minutes from Essaouira.
These beauty cooperatives appear throughout the Moroccan countryside, providing employment for local women to prepare natural beauty products through traditional methods. Argan oil comes from a rich almond type nut grown on the Argan tree which is native to the region. It is a vitamin E rich oil used in luxury face creams and other beauty preparations. Again, these cooperatives are typical to a tourist itinerary.
Marjana, however, proved to be a little different and it was a joy to be welcomed by drumming, singing and dancing before the obligatory oil extraction demonstration and sales pitch got underway. And it was sheer magic when this worker who was in her 80s got up to dance for us.
My final clip is the same woman at work. This time, she is showing off her dexterity, sorting almonds. Although producers often now use machines for processing the oil, the traditional methods of argan and almond oil extraction are being kept alive.