top of page

Tabourida, Berber equestrian sports and horse races in Morocco

El Jadida is a Moroccan coastal city that is visited by thousands of people each July for the largest equestrian show in the kingdom.

This event, called Tabourida or La'ab Al-Baroud, is a competitive event that features synchronised riding and decorative guns. This event pays tribute to military parades performed by Arab and Berber tribes since the 15th century.

It is an integral display for many festivals across Morocco and has become a cultural tradition that has survived time and change. The event is practiced today by hundreds of troupes, both young and old, and both men and women. The event was made popular by French artist Eugene Delacroix in the 19th century when he dubbed it "Fantasia".

The sport of horse racing can be expensive and dangerous. Arabian or Berber horses of the highest stock can cost as much as 300,000 Dirhams ($30,000.) Inexperienced riders frequently fall from their horses, and troupes risk hitting a barrier at the end of the track if they cannot stop their horses in time.

Although competition is fierce, today, the only prize is the applause from the audience. The more synchronized the display, the louder the cheer from the crowds. It takes skill, talent and a lot of discipline to put on a good show.

The Fantasia of Morocco

In August, a large crowd came to watch the equestrian competition in Mansoura. South of Rabat, Morocco's capital, is the little settlement. 19 horse troupes arrived from various regions of the kingdom. They commemorated a three-day competition that displayed bravery, talent, and tradition.

The horse-riding celebration is referred to as Tabourida. "The Powder Game" is what it means. The artwork honors Arab and Berber tribes' military parades from the fifteenth century. Tabourida gained popularity in the 19th century thanks to renowned French artist Eugene Delacroix. He dubbed the occasion Fantasia in his picture, and the word stayed.

People from all walks of life come together at Tabourida.

There are people from many backgrounds, both the poor and the wealthy. However, once we're all on the field together, working for the same objective, we become equals.

Tabourida is all about that oneness. The synchronicity of each troupe, or sourba, of 10 to 30 riders is evaluated. The group lines up at the top of a track, dons ceremonial robes, and mounts their horses with ornate bridles and vibrantly colored saddles. When the lead rider yells, the group charges down the field.

The riders raise their weapons at the next signal, all firing simultaneously.

A centuries-old horsemanship culture still exists in Morocco

The Berber horses of Morocco have been an integral part of the landscape of the Maghreb for as long as anyone can remember. Their kingdom extends from Mauritania through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia to Libya. The story of the Berber horses is intrinsically intertwined with the Atlas Mountains and the people of Morocco.

Many tribes rode the Berber (also known as the Barb) horse before our time. It functioned as a working mount, pack, and battle horse, depending on the situation.

According to the Berbers, their horses are among the world's most ancient breeds. This is supported by research demonstrating that the horses that inhabited the Sahara 4,000 years ago were comparable to the Berber horses we know today.

Photo Gallery: Tabourida, Berber Horse Racing

1 view0 comments