The Traditional Tissa Horse Festival

The deafening roar and rising dust of oncoming trucks from all over the region marks the start of one of the most celebrated festivals in Morocco. During the year, the small town of Tissa is a quiet community, tucked away in the treeless hills of the Moroccan countryside, just fifty kilometers away from Fez. But in the month of October, the town is transformed into a sight of medieval festivities, color and music. It is the annual Tissa Horse Festival and it is seen as a calendar event.

Many visitors travel to Morocco without realizing that a world of festivities awaits them. This remarkable horse festival in Tissa is celebrated in remembrance of Sidi Muhammed Ben Lachen, a fifteenth century patron saint. It attracts hundreds of horse breeders and horse owners that come to the annual Tissa Horse Festival to show off their beautifully groomed thoroughbreds. The horses that are brought here are of the finest breeding and include Arab-Berbers, Arab stallions and Barbary mares. Riders get the opportunity to display their horse’s capabilities in different events, to exhibit qualities such as grace, speed, maneuverability and endurance. Each discipline is executed with precision riding, and most the time the crowd is either amazed into gaping stares or jubilant with noisy praise and encouragement.

Of course it would not be a competition without a prize, and to ensure that they stand a better change of winning, owners and breeders usually enter more than one well-trained horse into the events. Even though the horse festival in Tissa is one of many of these types of festivals in Morocco, there is an age-old pride and tradition attached to this event that has its foundation in the ancient horsemanship culture of the region. Dress code for this spectacular event is traditional garments, the national dress of the country. These garments are known as gandouras and djellabas. The riders take every part of the festival very seriously.

Spectators are not too eager to remain serious for ten days, so the Tissa Horse Festival is a Moroccan equestrian event that is filled with lively music, dancing, singing and cheering. Fast-talking auctioneers that assist breeders and buyers in trading horses accompany all this festival madness. It is recommended that visitors who travel to Morocco join in celebrating this festival that combines the excitement and jubilant atmosphere of celebration, with the culture and tradition that has always been synonymous with the region.