The Boujloud Festival – Morocco’s Halloween?

Boujloud Festival

What is the Boujloud Festival?

The Boujloud Festival, sometimes referred to as “Bilmawen,” is a unique cultural event celebrated in certain parts of Morocco during the days following Eid al-Adha. Boujloud, meaning “the father of skins” in Arabic, is a folk tradition with roots tracing back to pre-Islamic times in Morocco. The term “Bilmawen” in Amazigh translates to “the one with many faces.”

Often dubbed the “Moroccan Halloween,” Boujloud is a time for people to come together and celebrate through singing and dancing after Eid al-Adha. This local festivity is an integral part of Moroccan cultural heritage, known for its vibrant street art and activities that fill the celebration with energy and harmony.

History and Significance of the Boujloud Festival

the story behind boujloud festival

Although the exact origins of Boujloud remain debated, some ethnologists believe it stems from ancient Amazigh (Berber) rites celebrating the changing of seasons and the cycle of life and death. The festival symbolizes the eternal conflict between good and evil, which is why attendees wear extravagant and unusual costumes, often disguising their identities.

Legends suggest that the festival drew inspiration from a leather-clad monster that once terrified remote villages or possibly from a tribal raiding party dressed in animal skins. The costumes aim to instill fear and awe, similar to Halloween in America.

Some have linked Boujloud to the Roman festival of Saturnalia, though its exact origins remain uncertain. Regardless, Boujloud has evolved into a major cultural celebration that unites Moroccans for days of fun, unity, and happiness.

How and When is the Boujloud Festival Celebrated?

Each year, young Moroccans don the skins of lambs or goats sacrificed during Eid al-Adha and parade through the narrow streets of their cities to the rhythm of drums. The celebration lasts from three to seven days and includes folk music concerts, making Boujloud a cultural event that showcases Berber heritage and attracts thousands of tourists.

While Boujloud is not celebrated throughout all of Morocco, it prominently features in regions like Tiznit, Agadir, Taroudant, and Amazigh areas of the High Atlas Mountains, including Imlil and surrounding valleys, Ait Bouguemez in the south, and the Rif Mountains in the north.

Costumes and Masks

Boujloud Festival costumes

During the festival, young men from the village wear the skins of lambs and goats sacrificed during Eid al-Adha, often including feet and bones. They get creative with their costumes to the point where they are almost unrecognizable. I recall that, as a child, this was the most entertaining event of the year for everyone in the village. Participants also wear masks and use face paint, adding to the festive and mysterious atmosphere. Dressing up in these unique costumes connects participants to ancient rituals and traditions, making the experience deeply meaningful.

Amazigh Folk Music and Dances

Villagers, both men and women, come together to perform traditional dances like the Ahidous. In this performance, men and women form circles and move gracefully while singing Berber songs. The Ahidous consists of three elements: the Izlan song, which relates to local poetry or improvisations on themes ranging from love to politics, rhythmic accompaniment with tambourines and hand clapping, and the dance itself.

Parades and Processions

The Boujloud Festival features lively parades and processions that showcase the creativity and community spirit of participants. The streets fill with people dressed in impressive costumes and masks, accompanied by musicians and dancers, creating a spectacular display. Each group strives to outdo the next with their colorful and imaginative outfits, resulting in a dazzling show for spectators. The festive atmosphere is infectious, drawing large crowds who eagerly join in the celebration, cheering, and dancing along.

Boujloud Festival for Visitors: Tips and Recommendations

Boujloud is a joyful event that celebrates Morocco’s rich cultural heritage. It offers a unique opportunity to experience local culture in an immersive way.

Embrace the Culture!

To fully appreciate this carnival, take time to learn about its cultural significance. Engage with locals, participate in traditional activities, and gain insights into the festival’s customs. Join in the dancing and music, and interact with performers respectfully. Be mindful of cultural sensitivities, dress modestly, and ask for permission before photographing individuals or performances.

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