It is called the "pilgrimage of the poor": every summer ten thousands of believers march in Morocco to the holy city of Moulay Driss Zerhoun, where for 12 centuries Idris I, the founder of the first Islamic dynasty of Morocco, rests.
A descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of the Idrissid dynasty, had sought refuge in the vicinity of the ancient Roman city of Volubilis, in central Morocco, after fleeing Baghdad at the end of the eighth century.
In the central square of this small town with 12,000 souls, nestled in the hollow of two hills covered with olive trees, Sufi brotherhoods paraded under the gaze of onlookers and a handful of officials installed on a red elevation. This procession marks the beginning of the "moussem", a summer meeting where different festivities and prayers take place in honor of the saint.
"The pilgrimage of the poor is for someone who has not been to Mecca, he comes here on this holy land to bless the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad," says Fatmi Chbihi, one of the "chorfa" s "adarissas" of the city, the department of the descendants of Iris 1st.
The faithful recite Koranic verses with their hands in their hearts as they walk to the green-tiled sanctuary. Whitewashed houses offer modest shops with candles for sacrifices and other religious items.
Posters across the city announce the participation in the case of Sufi brotherhoods from all over the country. Esoteric tradition of Islam is often unknown to the general public, Sufism contrasts with the formalism of salafists, Wahhabi & # 39; s and other followers of a rigorous Islam that considers the worship of the saints as a heresy.
– "Islam of the middle way" –
Sufism is an initiation path of inner transformation where self-knowledge leads to that of the other and of God. With hundreds of millions of followers around the world, it permeates popular culture in many countries, including Morocco.
This mystical trend of Sunni Islam is experiencing renewed interest in this country, which presents itself as the defender of the "Islam of the golden mean".
"The Islam practiced in Morocco is of Maliki-rite, it is open and free of all fundamentalism," said Mr. Chbihi, dressed in a spotless white jellaba. "Zawiya (brotherhoods) play an important role in promoting this moderate Islam." According to him, the number of fraternities that are present at Moulay Driss Zerhoun makes it an important religious meeting.
The crowd rushes past the revered grave. A sign reminds that the site is forbidden for non-Muslims, like all shrines and mosques in the country.
A portrait in honor of King Mohammed VI hangs at the entrance, for a white arcade of Arab-Moorish inspiration. A marble plaque commemorates the history of this mausoleum from the 18th century, often rehabilitated.
This is where the current ruler of Morocco, "commander of the faithful" in his country, ascended his throne, just like before his father, Hassan II.
– "Spiritual tourism" –
In this high place of pilgrimage and spirituality, Quranic inscriptions adorn the ceramic walls under a majestic copper chandelier.
The faithful approach the tomb covered with a cloth of golden silk, upon which they lay their hands to ask the Baraka (blessing) and the favors of Idris I.
Zakaria, a resident of Salé, a city near the administrative capital of Rabat, three hours drive, arrives every year for 16 years what he describes as "spiritual encounters", with friends or followers from other regions of Morocco. This forty-year-old with a short beard, white djellaba and red tarboosh, "would not miss this pilgrimage that allows him to be purified and spiritually accomplished for the world".
At nightfall, the disciples of the various fraternities meet in private homes for mystical-religious nighttime ceremonies infused with divine songs and invocations.
This annual meeting helps to revitalize the local economy, Zakia El Hanaoui, owner of a guest house and guide, welcomes. "The accommodations are full, the market is full," she says, praising the "serenity that prevails in the city" and the benefits of this "spiritual tourism".