from the original article at
Morocco celebrates its festivals -- and diversity
A festive atmosphere can be seen on the Moroccan streets as the
country's three monotheistic faiths celebrate their holidays -- Eid Al-
Adha, Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year -- side by side. Moroccans
hope the rest of the world can learn from their example of tolerance.
By Binoual Imrane for Magharebia in Casablanca -- 27/12/06
[Getty Images] About five million sheep, half of the Moroccan breeding,
will be sacrificed for the holidays.
Three major holidays of Morocco's three monotheistic religions occur
around the same time at the end of 2006: Christmas, Eid Al-Adha and
Hanukkah. "Eid Mubarak", "Merry Christmas", "Happy Hanukkah" and
"Happy New Year" are phrases used by Moroccans lately, as one feast
In a single country, one can see each community preparing for its feast in
an unequalled spirit of tolerance. A special atmosphere can be found in
Morocco, particularly in the main tourist area, but also in the two capital
cities: Rabat, the political capital, and Casablanca, the economic capital.
Activities associated with preparations for Eid-el-Kebir or Eid al-Adha
(the Feast of Sacrifice) are going full steam ahead. Different feast-related
jobs proliferate. Shepherds, farmers and traders take over the markets
and hire garages to sell their sheep. The Jewish community is organising
various activities, particularly in their museum and in Essaouira,
Morocco's main Jewish city.
Hotels are adorned with decorations for all of the end-of-year festivities.
"The fact that Eid-Al-Adha coincides this year with the Christmas and
Hanukkah, whose festivities can be seen here in Essaouira, changes
nothing. Just as in other years, we have a rise in bookings in late
December because there are a lot of tourists from different cultures and
religions who will spend the New Year in Essaouira," says Mostapha Al
Azza, hotelier and chairman of the Essaouira provincial council for
Some cities in Morocco are even overbooked. "This year when three major
festivals come together, the 94 classified hotels, as well as the 490
boarding houses in the Red City are full, from December 22nd to January
5th. The clientele varies. There are foreigners, nationals, and groups of
Jewish, Moroccan and foreign pilgrims, who find themselves in Morocco
at this time. While Marrakech saw 100,000 tourists at the end of 2005,
this year, we are expecting 150,000 tourists," Abdelatif Abouricha, of the
Marrakech regional council, said.
Abouricha said the choice of Marrakech is not just by chance. "This is the
perfect example of a tolerant town. For example, there is a mosque
opposite a church in the Guélise district and the synagogues built in the
Medina of Mellah," he pointed out.
Tolerance in Morocco is unlikely to change simply because feasts from
various religions coincide. "It’s a coincidence which bodes well for the
three communities," stresses Simon Levy, general secretary of the Jewish
community in Casablanca.
"I hope this will be an opportunity in other parts of the world for these
three communities to stop hating each other. These feasts coming
together will catch their attention, and they will realise they have one
single God. And I hope they will then stop waging war against each
other," Levy said.