Seven days after the Aïd al-Mawlid (in the French transliteration used in Morocco, it's the Mouloud, a celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed), Tangier usually honors its patron saint, Sidi Bouarraquia. In the 1940s, during the Spanish occupation of the Tangier International Zone, the authorities banned the celebration because of its nationalist undertones. We missed the cortège in previous years, and in 2011 the parade was cancelled: it was too close to the troubled date of February 20.
So this year, we vowed to be there. Maybe the folkloristic buildup to it had been hyped a bit too much, because at least one expat found the parade to be "overrated." Personally, I had been expecting lots of sacrificial cows, but there was only one, and she (or maybe it was a bull) was so surrounded by the throng that I could only get a glimpse. There are better pictures here.
After the festivities come the scissors: it's circumcision time! Here's how "Ali Bey" (Spanish spy Domènec Badia Leblich) found Tangier on Mouloud in 1803:
A certain number of boys are assembled, followed by musick, consisting of two bag-pipes, which are played in unison, but not therefore less discordant… Though there were circumcisions every day during the festival of the Mouloud, yet I waited till the last, because I was assured that they would then be more numerous. I found what may be called a real butchery…
I will spare the squeamish the details of what happens to "the little victims," but Ali Bey does describe a great diversionary trick at the moment of truth: a chorus of previous victims whose shouts distract the young circumcisee.
I'm not sure if the truck bringing up the rear of the parade was carrying goodies to soothe the little victims, but there were certainly hopes among the people in the parade to get one of its fruit baskets, if not a slab of the sacrificial cow. As we say, saha – bon appétit!