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Morocco: In Sale, the “mawlid” in procession of candles

La procession des cierges de Salé © Ismael Zniber

La procession des cierges de Salé © Ismael Zniber

While the Muslim world is celebrating "mawlid", which commemorates the birth of Prophet Muhammad, the city of Sale, Morocco, celebrates its annual procession of candles.

In Morocco, the mawlid or commemoration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, is a day of rest during which it is customary to devote oneself to loved ones. But in Salé in the suburbs of Rabat, in the northwest of the Kingdom, this commemoration has a distinctive look.

An imported tradition

Every year, during the mawlid, the city celebrates the moussem of Waxes, also known as the “Procession of the Candles”. During this event, a procession of lanterns decorated with multicoloured wax cells leaves the home of candle makers crosses the city to reach the mausoleum of Sidi Abdellah ben Hassoun, patron saint of Salé and boatmen.

The parade is animated by music and traditional dances. This custom goes back to the reign of of Sultan Ahmed al-Mansur in the 16th century. During a long exile in Istanbul, the sultan witnessed a similar procession and decided to import this Ottoman tradition to Salé upon his return. The city organized its first moussem in 1578, and has been perpetuating this custom ever since.