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Fantasia: Performing Traditional Equestrianism as Heritage Tourism in Morocco

  • Author(s): Talley, Gwyneth Ursula Jean
  • Advisor(s): Levine, Nancy E
  • Slyomovics, Susan E
  • et al.
Abstract

In Morocco, the fantasia, the traditional equestrian display, is not only a sport, but also an important aspect of the region’s cultural heritage. This thesis explores the ways in which the fantasia evolved from a cavalry tradition to celebratory display in traditional tribal and regional celebrations of religious saints, or festivals, usurped by the French colonial agenda, and re-articulated within the colonial and, later, contemporary society of Morocco as a state-regulated heritage sport. This paper examines the historical role of fantasia within the images and national history of Morocco, its central role in moussems, and how the state created a national and global identity around this performance. I examine how the state has effectively moved a traditional horse display from a charge of horses and triumphant ritual to a state-regulated tourist spectacle for domestic and foreign tourists by requiring most festivals to have governmental approval (such as the festival of Moussem Moulay Abdellah Amghar) and more festivals being organized by the state (Salon du Cheval and La Semaine du Cheval). I discuss why the horse in Morocco is an ideological heritage symbol that helps promote the national identity through repetitive use and performance. I use historical references to the fantasia, ethnographically explain the performance in the context of the Moussem Moulay Abdellah Amghar, and discuss the use of the horse as a representative symbol in Moroccan tourism.

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