Saturday, July 30, 2011

Beni Amar’s donkey festival

That will do donkey!

The View from Fez livestock reporter, Rose Button reports from the Beni Amar donkey festival

Any visitor to Morocco will not move far without seeing, hearing or smelling a donkey. So of course you would expect an annual Donkey Festival in Morocco – well it did come as a surprise to me, as a local in Morocco, and I was lucky to experience ‘Festibaz’ the donkey festival of a small town of Beni Amar, which was hosted at Moulay Idriss this July.

What happens at a Donkey Festival? Let me educate you... from my eye witness, on location donkey watching experience!

Donkey’s, and their owners, travel from all regions to participate in the fastest donkey, the prettiest donkey and the best dressed donkey competitions. The stakes were high with each winner winning 2500Dh (250Euros), a bag of donkey feed and high prestige.

The event all started when I could hear cheering from the main square in Moulay Idriss, and being particularly nosey I asked locals what was going on – it is the donkey race and it was being won by the donkey’s from Beni Amar ‘they are just so good!’ the local shouted.

‘she was so gorgeous, she was white and had these most beautiful lips and long nose’.
"She was so gorgeous..."
 Next there was a crowd gathering round the stage where the judging was taking place for the Most Prettiest Donkey. Prior to this I would have thought that a donkey is a donkey, which is just a donkey... but no, the most prettiest donkey was a very pretty donkey. It was described by local’s as ‘she was so gorgeous, she was white and had these most beautiful lips and long nose’. Seriously, that is what not just one, but two people, said to me when I asked them.

At this stage, it was all far too exciting and I grabbed my camera and be part of the action... I slid through the crowd to be ringside for the judging of the best dressed donkey.

It was fabulous! Each donkey was decorated with flowers, balloons, sparkly things. Anything that you would expect a best dressed donkey to display. Each were paraded around and the highlight was the man that danced with his donkey. The donkey’s front hoofs were on his shoulders and they danced around, the waltz I thought??. Half way through the judging there was Gnawa music and dancing and finally the winners were announced. With each announcement there was spontaneous dancing and celebration from the owner of the donkey and his friends. The dancing donkey came second and the winner, the donkey with the flower behind her ear.

Dancing queen...

It was an amazing occasion and I look forward to the Beni Amar Donkey festival in 2012. As I was leaving, a local said to me ‘the tourists don’t think we take care of our donkey’s and this shows that we do’ quickly followed by ‘’take care of your donkey and you take care of you’. Sweet sentiment I thought.

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