The Moussem of Sidi Mohammed Ben Aïssa, or Moussem Cheikh al Kamel, held on the eve of Mouloud, was once one of the most outrageous spectacles in Morocco. The moussem was the principal gathering of the Aissaoua brotherhood, an occasion for them to display their powers of endurance under trance, piercing their tongues and cheeks with daggers, eating serpents and scorpions and devouring live sheep and goats.

While their activities today are more subdued, the event is still a dramatic sight. With enormous conical tents popping up around the marabout tomb of Sidi Mohammed Ben Aïssa, and crowds of country people in white jellabas gathering beneath the city walls, the modern moussem has the appearance of a medieval tournament, never more so than during the spectacular focal fantasia (a charge of horses with riders firing guns at full gallop) that takes place near Place el Hedim.

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