Hanane and I went to Sefrou on Sunday to spend some time with her family and check out the Sefrou Cherry Festival. We found that the actual Festival doesn’t begin until Thursday, June 17 and then runs through Sunday, June 20. The festival promises to be exciting and fun and we will probably head up there next Sunday (my only day off right now) to check out the Fantasia and events. I’m looking forward to it.
What was exciting was the Sefrou Carnival which is in full swing. This was the largest carnival I’ve been to in Morocco with a huge exhibition area which sold everything you usually find in the souks or the Medina but for less money, a fairly big selection of rides, and some other unexpected entertainment.
Getting to Sefrou, we relaxed with her family at her father’s house. Her cousin was visiting along with a family friend from Syria who goes to all the exhibitions in Morocco and sells his wares. There is always someone visiting at the Souidi house.
Since it was still early, I had the pleasure of watching World Cup matches with Hanane’s mom and dad and milking one of the goats. This was sort of like the Thanksgivings I remember where the family would gather around to watch American football matches and milk goats, only better. Hanane’s mom loves football (soccer) and she made me promise that if a big match ever comes to Fes that I will take her to it. I gladly agreed. Hanane smacked me when I told her it would just be me and her mom, of course, I was only kidding.
Later, in the afternoon we headed to the carnival. It was strangely cold in Sefrou (especially for mid June) and I borrowed one of Selim’s jackets.
There is no such thing as lines in Morocco and so this carnival was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Instead of people lining up for their turn to take a ride, it is exactly like waiting for a grand taxi with everyone running up and whoever gets the seats first taking them. No tickets either. The attendants just wait until the fighting for seats is done and then collect 5 dirhams per ride from those who managed to grab seats. If you want to stay on the rides all day and keep paying, you can do that.
All of the rides themselves are familiar but in a much greater state of aging and disrepair than I’ve ever experienced anywhere else. No guard rails, safety equipment at a minimum with only what still survives from when these rides were being used in Europe or the USA, and of course, because it is Morocco, each ride with a stereo blaring out Moroccan pop music.
I kept having visions of our seats flying out from the machine and killing us and all the spectators who crowded around the rides. I have no idea if there are annual fatality reports from Moroccan carnivals, but I suspect there must be.
The funniest ride was the 4th Dimension rocket ride. It was one of those spaceships you get in and then it moves while it shows you a futuristic (at least it was back in 1982) video that simulates movement. Hanane was scared to go on this, but for 5 dirhams, I had to see what it would be.
As we got on, it smelled like an old bus. In fact, except for the lack of windows it could have been an old bus. The carnies are obviously living in it at night and the rear seat was filled with their dirty clothes, another seat was filled with something but covered by a blanket. A strange assortment of old ladies boarded the rocket to experience the ‘4th dimension’.
The viewscreen was cracked and the hydraulics were shot, it was actually bumpier than a ride on an old bus. The program was all in English (which only Hanane and I understood) and was a mission to ancient Egypt to recover a terrorist nuclear bomb in King Tut’s tomb.
It was incredibly fun and we laughed the whole time as our ancient toothless Moroccan pilot navigated us through tombs he probably helped build.
The other rides were not quite so dilapidated as that one, but still I was nervous we would go flying. We rode the octopus and a couple of other similar rides.
Hanane wouldn’t let me pay 5 dirhams to go see the dancing Berber woman in a closed tent, but we paid 5 dirhams to see the motorcycle daredevil. He was amazing.
Essentially, they’ve built a big wooden barrel and everyone goes inside and climbs the stairs to the top about 25 feet or so. Then you look down. The daredevil then comes in and rides his motorcycle around the walls defying gravity. He rode with Moroccan flags covering his face so he couldn’t see, the crowd would hold out dirham notes (okay just one guy) and the daredevil scooped it up as he went by, and he would get the crowd clapping using his throttle to set the rhythm. Of course, one mishap and he could easily have killed a dozen people, so we were all being daredevils too, though I was probably the only one thinking that as I pulled Hanane back from the ledge a bit.
After this Hanane and I shared a bumper car while her brother and his friend shared another. I felt like we were targeted by all the little kids, probably because we were laughing more than anyone else.
And of course, what would a carnival be without food and games. I only played one game, a shooting game where I paid one dirham and then hit the bullseye….when we asked about prizes, we were told that there were none. It explained why no one else was bothering to compete. No prizes were evident at any of the games.
And for the food, we ate a tasty deep friend donut, fresh potato chips, and some ice cream…all for a whopping 1 dirham each. Then we bought some bedsheets at the exhibition area.
Unfortunately, it started raining before we could ride the Ferris Wheel and to my surprise, they shut down all the rides for safety. So we went back to the Souidi house where Hanane made harira soup. It was a very nice day and I highly recommend that you check out the Sefrou Cherry Festival Carnival…all told, we spent about 100 dirhams (about $12.50) and that included the bed sheets.