MATA Festival // The “ALAMIA association for social and cultural action” organised the 11th edition of the international Mata horse-riding festival from 02 to 04 June 2023 in the Zniyed locality, commune of Larbaa de Ayacha, province of Larache.
This is a unique game that calls on the courage and intelligence of those who play it, as it is an ancestral tradition from an exceptional region that the “Jbala” tribes have named Mata.
Placed under the High Patronage of King Mohammed VI and held under the theme “Mata; heritage of humanity and meeting of cultures“, this edition, organised in partnership with UNESCO’s International Festival of Cultural Diversity, was a great success, with tens of thousands of visitors and the quality of guests from countries such as Spain, Belgium, Cameroon, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Portugal.
As festival president Nabil Baraka explains, the highlight of this 11th edition was the Moroccan government’s decision to include the Mata equestrian competition on UNESCO‘s list of intangible heritage.
This decision was strongly supported by the Minister for Youth, Culture and Communication, Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid, who, at the opening ceremony of the festival, in the presence of the Minister for Water and Equipment, Mr Nizar Baraka, the Minister for Industry and Trade, Mr Riad Mezzour, the Wali, Mr Mohamed Mhidia, and civil society representatives, as well as the Moroccan Minister for Culture, Youth and Communication, Mr Nabil Baraka, civil society, as well as leading political figures, announced the launch of the procedure for registering the Mata ancestral equestrian competition on UNESCO’s list of intangible heritage, in line with HM the King’s enlightened vision, which aims to promote Morocco’s cultural heritage on an international scale. He went on to say that this traditional game would also be included on ISESCO’s list of intangible heritage.
Referring to the specific nature of this multi-dimensional event, the Minister indicated that through the promotion of the Mata festival, the Department aims to introduce the world to a unique game that calls on the courage and intelligence of those who play it, given that it is a traditional game from an exceptional region, which the “Jbala” tribes have named Mata.
The festival’s chairman, Nabil Baraka, said on this occasion that Morocco, under the enlightened leadership of HM King Mohammed VI, is working tirelessly to safeguard and enhance its tangible and intangible cultural heritage, which is characterised by its richness and diversity, noting that this annual event, the cornerstone of which is the Mata equestrian competition, helps to preserve an ancestral intangible civilisational heritage and revives the region’s age-old traditions.
He pointed out that the Mata festival, which is open to all continents, has become a forum for conviviality and cultural, social and economic exchange. He added that this event, which highlights the role of the horse in the northern region and pays tribute to its riders, also fosters the economic and tourist development of the Kingdom’s northern and southern regions, by showcasing their many assets and promoting their rich and varied local products and crafts, which are now world-renowned.
Mr Nabil Baraka pointed out that previous editions of this popular equestrian game have been very well attended by enthusiasts from all over the world, saying that this festival aims to revive and preserve Morocco’s traditional civilisational heritage and to enshrine the values of solidarity, tolerance and living together that Morocco has embraced throughout its history and right up to the present day, under the enlightened leadership of HM King Mohammed VI.
This event, he continued, is also an opportunity for the southern provinces, the festival’s permanent guest, to exhibit their products alongside cooperatives from the northern region, giving guests a chance to discover the variety and richness of the local treasures of both regions.
As in previous years, the organisers have concocted a programme packed with a wide range of activities. During the three-day event, national and international guests and visitors were able to travel back in time and discover exhibitions of local products and Moroccan crafts. The Festival also offered local, national and foreign audiences a series of evenings of Sufi songs and local and national folk shows.
There were also a number of events on the menu, including an environmental awareness campaign and children’s games. Tributes were also paid to prominent figures from the worlds of culture, sport and civil society.
“This annual event celebrates an ancestral culture that expresses a rehabilitated sense of honour, a deep-rooted faith, patriotism as a Sufi school and spiritual and universal values; all the humanist heritage bequeathed by the great Quotb Moulay Abdeslam Ibn Mashich to the Chorfas Alamiyines, the Tarika Mashichiya Shadhiliya and the inhabitants of this exceptional region,” says a press release from the Mata International Equestrian Festival and the Alamia Laaroussia Association for Social and Cultural Action.