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Morocco's Achoura festival: toys, drums, bonfires and charity

By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 18/01/08

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The festival of Achoura, celebrated this year on Saturday (January 19th), the 10th day of Muharram, is an occasion keenly anticipated by Moroccans young and old. Families gather for special meals, bonfires and fireworks and children enjoy the chance to buy gifts.

From stores in working class districts to large shopping centres, the trade in toys flourishes ahead of the event. Many traders stock new merchandise specifically for Achoura. With a variety of dolls, plastic guns, cars, swords, masks and other toys for sale, the choice is a difficult one for children and their parents. Marked with prices to accommodate all budgets, some traders set out their goods on the floor to provide easy access to even the smallest of shoppers.

This is the second year that Samir Taj Eddine, 26, is selling toys during Achoura. "I’ve bought 10,000 dirhams worth of toys from China. Last year, I made 3,000 dirhams in one week, with capital of just 5,000 dirhams," he said optimistically.

In addition to the many toys for sale, the so-called Tâarija drums are popular this time of year. They are prized not only by children, but by adults as well. The drums are part of a deep-rooted custom with Moroccans, going back decades. Teach Selma Sefrioui has been collecting drums since she was 16. "It’s impossible not to buy a drum at the festival of Achoura. All my friends do the same as me. We meet on the big day and sing and dance," she said, as she bought a new drum.

Children celebrate in the streets during the Achoura festival, eager for the big day which follows: "Zem Zem". Although this is the name of a well in Mecca, in Morocco the name describes the day when children are completely free to spray water at their friends and adult neighbours in the street.

When evening comes, the children light great bonfires and leap, sing and dance around them for hours on end. Wearing new clothes, they set off rockets in the streets. This activity, however, has started to fall out of favour in recent years because of accidents. Indeed, every year children wind up in hospitals due to the improper use of the explosives. The government has banned the sale of rockets, but some traders still sell them secretly.

Achoura is primarily a social celebration. Families meet in houses filled with the scent of incense for a meal of dried fruits and couscous with dried mutton (gueddid). Carrying candles, Moroccans visit the dead in the cemeteries and pray for them.

It is also a zakat day. Islamic education teacher Mohamed Rahmani said the word Achoura is derived from the Arabic word for the number 10, achara. "During Achoura, Muslims offer zakat for the poor, a tenth of their money from the previous year," he said.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    rania (Libya) 2014-11-2

    tank you for this new information!<3


  2. Anonymous thumb

    Hicham 2014-11-2

    Thank you about the news on Achoura devices!


  3. Anonymous thumb

    kamilia oubella 2013-12-3

    Thank you so much for this news about the holiday that distinguishes our Islamic religion.


  4. Anonymous thumb

    samira 2013-11-11

    Thank you for this new information!


  5. Anonymous thumb

    سكينة 2012-11-25

    This is true. We shouldn't rejoice but feel sorrow because igniting fire and playing with drums is a haram, haram thing to do.


    • Anonymous thumb

      sara 2013-12-10

      I'm with you on this operation.


  6. Anonymous thumb

    احمد 2011-12-8

    May God curse the wrong-doers! This day is for sorrow only as did the prophet of God. It should be sad and dusty of sorrow and concern for this huge catastrophe. May God curse anyone who celebrates this day and introduce them with Yazid and his followers! May God curse them all!


  7. Anonymous thumb

    جعفر 2011-12-7

    So odd! The day on which the throne of God shook, the day on which one of the best humans, Hussein peace upon him, was killed. This is propaganda which possessed the minds of simple people. O Lord protect this Umma, may God help you with the affliction! You will remember these words. There were many nations who were shaken and removed by God the Almighty because of ignorance.


  8. Anonymous thumb

    عبدالعزير 2011-12-6

    The day of Achoura was the day of joy of Bani Oumaya when they killed Al Hussein son of Ali, peace be upon him, the grandson of the prophet of God and son of Fatima Zahra, peace be upon her. They celebrate the capture of his women and children. Therefore, this day shouldn’t be celebrated. It is a day of sadness and sorrow in consolation for the family of the prophet of God (peace and blessings of God be upon him). It is not logical that we love the prophet of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him and celebrate the day his son, the leader of young people of paradise, was killed.


  9. Anonymous thumb

    محرم شهر أحزان اهل البيت النبوي الشريف 2011-12-6

    May God curse those who oppress the family of Mohammed, peace and blessings of God be upon him on this day throughout the history of humanity and until the Day of Judgment! I feel sorry for those who consider this day a celebration and rejoice in it! This just reflects the narrow-mindedness of these people who are deceived by advocates of devious ideology hostile to the family of the prophet who were afflicted on the 10th of Moharram with a great affliction. It killed the grandson and daughter of the prophet of God, peace and blessings of God be upon him.


    • Anonymous thumb

      samira 2013-12-10

      Why did you say that the month of Moharam is a month of affliction?


  10. Anonymous thumb

    ابراهيم حسين 2011-12-6

    A very sad day! Why not and the grandson of the prophet, Imam Hussein, was killed! Why not and the daughters of the prophet of God were imprisoned? Why not and children were terrorised, bereaved mothers were terrorised! By God, there is no greater tragedy than the tragedy of Hussein! But I am very astonished at the joy and celebration on this day! Millions of Muslims feel sad on this day for the death of Imam Hussein while million other Muslims celebrate and beat drums. This is an odd contradiction. I ask God to guide you and me, my dear ones.


  11. Anonymous thumb

    عبدالله 2011-12-6

    Achoura is a memory of martyrdom of the grandson of the prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him. He was slain in Karbala while he was thirsty along with his family as they were deprived of water. So what kind of people celebrate with games, singing and joy on the day on which the grandson of the prophet martyred? The majority of those who celebrate that day might ignore the tragedy which happened on Achoura. There are spiteful hands against the prophet of God and his family; thus they have turned this sad event into happiness, joy, made people who ignore history celebrate and rejoice on Achoura. So I ask everyone who celebrates Achoura please to go back to history to know the truth and stop this farce!


  12. Anonymous thumb

    عزوزي 2011-12-5

    I am astonished at a Muslim who takes his rituals and celebrations from Jews! O brothers of Islam, we should rather have taken from the prophet (peace and blessings of God be upon him) wisdom as he wept at this during the birth of Imam Hussein, peace be upon him, for what the Umma does when Gabriel, peace be upon him, informed him that his grandson was the leader of young people of paradise as they would be killed and their bodies ill-treated. So o brothers, we all have to remember this day with sorrow and take lessons from the painful incident.


  13. Anonymous thumb

    يييي 2011-12-2

    We should not celebrate on this day but we should rather feel sorry.


  14. Anonymous thumb

    حيدر 2011-11-4

    The day of Achoura is a tragedy day. The grandson of the prophet Al Hussein Ben Ali, peace be upon him, was killed on that day. He is the descendant of the prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him and his family. So should we console the prophet by celebrating that day instead of mourning? As for saying this day is for expressing brotherhood feelings and social outreaching, this is required and very good. However, people and families should understand the tragedy of this day and remember the position of Al Hussein Ben Ali in the face of injustice and despot. He was considered throughout time the basis of revolution against injustice, arrogance and tyranny. I ask God to guide all Muslims to do good deeds, reform, seek the right and show the truth.


  15. Anonymous thumb

    Anonymous 2011-4-26



  16. Anonymous thumb

    safae 2010-12-9

    My comment is that Aichoura is a celebration of tolerance.


  17. Anonymous thumb

    اسامة 2010-12-4

    Very nice!


  18. Anonymous thumb

    amal 2010-12-1

    Salam alikum ladies and gentlemen. My name is Amal. I would like to congratulate everyone for Achoura which will come soon. Thanks to everyone who contributes with his personal comment. Thank you!


  19. Anonymous thumb

    maria 2010-4-8

    so thank's so match for this information that's so interestin for all the musulman


  20. Anonymous thumb

    med amine 2010-2-22

    khanks very very match..........


  21. Anonymous thumb

    مسلم 2009-12-29

    The messenger of God said: "God loves those who love Hussein." Yazid, may God curse him, killed Imam Al Hussein and his honourable family. He abused his body and enslaved his womenfolk. Even children weren't spared and were trampled by the hooves of horses. This is not a day for celebration, but for sorrow for this horrific crime, following the example of the Messenger, peace and prayer of God be upon him, as he was the first to cry when Gabriel, peace be upon him, told him on the day of the birth of Hussein, peace be upon him, about what this Umma would do to him - that he and his children would be killed atrociously. The Messenger, peace be upon him, said: “Some people will kill my son and want my intercession. May God not grant them my intercession."


  22. Anonymous thumb

    عمر عبد الرحمن 2009-12-22

    Who ordered people to celebrate the day of Achoura? Did the Messenger of God celebrate it? It is the day on which was killed the descendant of the Messenger of God. Mohamed Abdou, Al Azhar Mosque says that without El Hussein, there would have been no trace of the religion of Mohamed.


  23. Anonymous thumb

    منتصر 2009-12-16

    Achoura is an important day for kids.


  24. Anonymous thumb

    rayane 2009-3-13

    I want to visit the shop.


  25. Anonymous thumb

    Alima 2008-1-19

    I thought that the Zakat, as part of the five pillars of Islam, was 2.5% of of their money. 10% is the Biblical or Judeo-Christian teaching.


  26. Anonymous thumb

    mofdi 2008-1-19

    Achoura is an occasion for fasting and praying. The prophet, peace and prayer on him, says 'Fasting the Day of Achoura, I promise you, God will redemp the previous year'. I ask God to accept from Muslims their fasting and cleanse religion of heresy and its authors.


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