Every year, generally in the end of September/early October there is a large horse festival held for five days in the small town of Tissa, just outside of Fes. Like most festivals in Morocco it can be hard to find out about the exact dates and details before it happens. However, if you happen to be in Fes over the time of the festival it can be a great cultural experience.
Tissa is a small town about a 40 to 50 minute drive outside of Fes. The drive from Fes to Tissa is quite pretty as you drive by fields, hills, farmland and occasionally the river. The two easiest ways to get there are probably by grand taxi or private transportation. Grand taxis are old Mercedes Benz vehicles in which they squeeze four people into the back and two people upfront plus the driver. You pay by the seat. So, if you are a person used to a bit more leg room you may pay for the two seats upfront and have more space to stretch out. Usually fairly inexpensive the grand taxis travel between cities. There are also various travel companies who if told ahead of time can help arrange private transportation and a driver to and from the festivities, including The Travel Source.
Upon arrival in Tissa it is not hard to figure out where the festivities are being held. All you have to do is follow the sounds of the loud bangs. The festival is most known for its fantasia. Fantasia is the name given to a traditional equestrian performance in which groups of horse riders wearing traditional dress and carrying traditional rifles will line up in a long line and charge straight ahead trying to keep in a single formation. Upon arriving at the end of the field they will come to a sudden halt and fire their guns in the air. The group who can keep the best formation and who are able to fire their guns all at once making it sound like one loud bang instead of several small bangs are the most admired, as well as most likely to be in the run up for prize money which is given out at the end of the five day affair. The Tissa horse festival this September, 2012, was made up of young men from around 12 years of age up to men who appeared to be in their early 70’s. Fantasia is a cultural tradition that tends to be passed down from grandfather, to father, to son. It not only takes great skill and practice, but also a love between the horse and its master. It is good to note that they do not use live ammunition.
If you would like to see an event like the fantasia held in Tissa, but can’t come during the dates of the festival there are a couple of restaurants, especially in the Marrakech region, who will put on a dinner and a show for their guests. The show will often include traditional music, belly dancing and fantasia. Let us know if you are interested in adding something like this into your program.