Moroccan cultural exhibition in Doha

Moroccan Gnawa

Moroccan Gnawa

Laila and I watched performers demonstrate traditional dance during a Moroccan Cultural Week at the Qatar National Theater in Doha, March 11-12. The two days were a part of a week-long commemoration of Doha, Capital of Arab Culture 2010. The festivities featured Moroccan jewelry, embroidery and henna tattooing exhibitions as well as events related to cinema, plastic art, traditional music and dance.

Inside a gallery, a Moroccan man was cutting clay tiles with perfect precision using something that resembled an iron anvil. We watched him chip away hexagons and every shape fit perfectly together. Mosaic tiles are a native artistic handiwork of Morocco, which had a lingering affect on art in Spain and Italy, their northern European neighbors.

Moroccan Argan oil is also a novelty of Morocco. The oil is hand-churned from the kernels of the argan tree, which only grows in the southwest region of Morocco, along the border of the Sahara desert. It’s an endangered and protected plant that grows nowhere else. At the Qatar exhibition, women were making the paste inside traditional stone contraptions used to crush the seeds. The result smelled a lot like peanut butter. The oil is used for beauty, medicine and cooking.

The dancing was interesting and a lot of fun – especially for Laila, who hasn’t been back to Morocco in several years. Marrakesh is now on our must-do list – to see more of the dancing. The Moroccan people are known to be friendly, community-driven people. Their dancing is a testament of that. They draw on the reaction from the crowd and drum up their tempos to get everyone excited. Here are two videos, one from each day. We made them on our cell phones, so the quality isn’t great.

The last video is Gnawa music, which is internationally popular Moroccan trance using stringed instrument and krakebs, large iron castanets. The music is closely related to the blues in tempo and pitch.

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