Sbuâ, annual pilgrimage to the zawiya of Sidi El Hadj Belkacem in Gourara


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Inscribed in 2015 (10.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© CNRPAH, 2011

Each year, pilgrims from Zenata communities in the south-west Algerian Sahara visit mausoleums of saints to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Mohammed. Sbuâ is a pilgrimage, which runs for a week and entails cultural practices that focus on group activities, which include celebrations with singing and dancing. On the seventh day, pilgrims conclude the journey in a square outside a zawiya (community institution) in the centre of Gourara, which houses the mausoleum of Sidi El Hadj Belkacem. Different groups of pilgrims symbolically merge around a bearer carrying the standard of a saint before returning to their respective groups to continue the ritual, which is governed by the oldest pilgrims. Women participate by ululating and presiding over the ‘millstone’ ritual a week before the ceremony, during which they grind the first handful of cereal used to make couscous for the pilgrims. Tradition bearers can trace their lineage back to the saints and describe themselves as descendants. Children and youth are involved formally in various aspects (acts, prayers and chants), gradually becoming knowledge bearers themselves. Sbuâ is considered by the communities, given the body of beliefs and rites enacted as part of the pilgrimage, to be an expression of their history and the links that bind them.