Fantasia exécutée à َAïn El Arbaa, dans la wilaya d'Aïn Témouchent, par un groupe de cavaliers photographiés au moment du tir de la salve de fusils.
Fantasia at Aïn El Arbaa (Aïn Témouchent, Algeria).
Fantasia Arabe by Eugène Delacroix, 1833

Fantasia (Arabic: الفانتازيا) is a traditional exhibition of horsemanship in the Maghreb performed during cultural festivals and for Maghrebi wedding celebrations.[1][2] It is present in Algeria, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.[3][2][4] It is attested in the ancient Numidian times during which it was practiced by the Numidian cavalry.[5][6] Historian Carlos Henriques Pereira stated that the North African fantasia also called barud is a modern watered down version of a Numidian military technique.[7]

Fantasia at the 43rd International Festival of the Sahara in Douz, Tunisia
Fantasia in Morocco

Fantasia is considered a cultural performance and a form of martial art;[8] it also symbolizes a strong relationship between the man (or woman) and the horse, as well as an attachment to tradition.[9] According to Jean-Pierre Digard, it is a watered down version of the Numidian cavalry charge.[10]

Fantasia performances usually take place during local seasonal, cultural or religious festivals, also called موسم moussem "saint's day festival" in Maghrebi Arabic.

History of the performance

Fantasia in Tunis, circa 1535
Fantasia in Tunis, Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen, circa 1535

Fantasia has been attested in the ancient times during which it was practised by the Numidians, historian Carlos Henriques Pereira stated that the modern North African fantasia is a watered down version of a Numidian military technique.[7][6][5] Fantasia has also been traced back to Arab-Amazigh tribes in the 17th century.[11] Tbourida comes from the cavalry charge performed by an army's vanguard in battle. It was also used in cavalry raiding and celebrations.[9]


The horse is referred to as a fantasia horse and is of Arabian, Andalusian or Barb stock. The term “fantasia” is of Latin origin, meaning “entertainment”, or Spanish- Italian meaning “fantasy”.[2] Fantasia is also a name used by French Orientalists.[2] The Arabic term mawsim (موسم) literally means "season". There are also regional names for the sport, such as Tbourida in Morocco, the word comes from the Arabic Baroud, meaning gunpowder.[12] The term laâb el-baroud (لعب البارود) and laâb el-khayl (لعب الخيل) are also used in Arabic.

Fantasia in art

Some French, Sri Lankan and other Western artists have done oil paintings of the fantasia, including Edmon Vales,[13] Eugène Delacroix,[4][14][15] Nasreddine Dinet, Théo van Rysselberghe, Amiru K. Eugène Fromentin and Ulpiano Checa.[citation needed]

Fantasia in Algeria

In Algeria the Fantasia goes back to the Numidian period.[5][6] Fantasia is common in Algeria, there are frequent regional Fantasia festivals and cultural events. Popular festivals include the Sidi Yahia Bensafia d'Ouled N'hare in Tlemcen, the Sidi Ahmed Almadjoub festival in Naâma and Horse festival in Tiaret. Fantasia is also performed around the Annual Pilgrimage of Sidi Cheikh.[16] According to the Algerian Equestrian Federation, 350 traditional equestrian associations, spread across the whole of the national territory, perpetuate the Fantasia.[17]

The Fantasia in Algeria is usually performed on a delimited ground of more than one hundred meters long, either in groups made up of nine to eleven riders or individually. The aim is to showcase skill, speed, rifle firing display, traditional dress, as well as the horses and their harnesses.[17]

The collective or group Fantasia is classified into two categories of games: the Temerad and the Guelba. In both games, the riders travel from one extremity of the course to the other and then execute the three stages of the Fantasia on their way back. A group leader is responsible for coordinating the performance by signalling, in the form of cries, the start of each stage.[17]

In the Temerad game, the riders approach the other end of the course at a walk, make a U-turn and await the signal from the group leader. At the start cry, the riders start galloping in a single line. At the second cry, the riders stand up, aligned shoulder to shoulder, holding the rifles in aim. At the third cry, the riders deliver a single blast by firing their arms simultaneously and then continuing the ride without leaving the course until they reach the end in an orderly and calm manner.[17]

In the Guelba game, the riders approach the other end of the course at a trot. The first cry signal is given as soon as they reach it, at which point, they make an extremely fast U-turn and start galloping. Those who fall behind must catch up at even higher speed for the alignment of the second stage. Although the last two stages are more or less similar to the Temerad, the speed at which the first stage is performed makes the Guelba the most accident prone of the two.[17]

The individual Fantasia, which can include up to three riders, is performed mostly in eastern Algeria. Always galloping from the start, the rider simulates an attack, and after firing, which can be done with one or two rifles successively, the rider then simulates a sabre attack. The game with two riders involves the two riders galloping at the start, holding each other tightly, boot to boot, sometimes going so far as to entwine the arm of one on the shoulders of the other, giving the impression from afar that it is only a single rider. After the volley, the two riders separate and finish the course with a sabre attack display.[17]

Local artists such as the painter Rachid Talbi and the photographer Nadjib Rahmani have produced artwork featuring the Fantasia in Algeria.[18][19][20]

Fantasia in Morocco (Tbourida)

See also: Horses in Morocco

Tbourida in El Jadida
DomainsSports competitions (equestrian games)
Inscription history
Inscription2021 (16th session)

There are frequent Tbourida festivals (moussems) and cultural events in Morocco.[11] Tbourida is also performed during national holidays and agricultural events.[12]

The performance consists of an odd number of horse riders, all wearing traditional clothes, usually carrying a copy of the Quran and a sword,[21] who charge along a straight track called Mahrak,[11] at the same speed so as to form a line, and then at the end of the charge (about two hundred meters)[12] fire into the sky using old muskets or muzzle-loading rifles. The difficulty of the performance is in synchronizing the movement of the horses during acceleration of the charge, and especially in firing the guns simultaneously so that one single shot is heard.[2] The horses were bred from the Arabian and Barb breeds or a mixture of the two.[22] The riders are led by a Mokaddem in the center of the troupe, usually a more experienced rider, who coordinates the rest of the troupe's movements.[12] A Tbourida show consists of two parts, the Hadda and the Talqa.[11]

The SOREC (Société Royale d’Encouragement du Cheval, engl. Royal Horse Promotion Society)[23] was created in 2003 as a public enterprise under the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to promote and preserve the practice of Fantasia and Tbourida in Morocco,[24] according to the SOREC, there are about a thousand registered Fantasia troupes.[25] Fantasia troupes are also represented by the Royal Moroccan Equestrian Federation (FRSME). There were 21 registered moussems for 309 troupes in the year 2014.[12][11]

Aimé-Nicolas Morot - Souvenir du Maroc (Fantasia)

Every year, about 330 Moroccan troupes compete for the Hassan II National Tbourida Trophy in El Jadida[26] during the Week of the Horse promoted by the FRSME in Rabat, Morocco. They qualify for the finals through regionally organized competitions through the Federation and SOREC.[11]

Tbourida was inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2021[27] during the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, following an joint application filed in 2019[28] by the Ministry of Culture, the SOREC and 4 local Tbourida associations.[29]

Moroccan artists such as Hassan El Glaoui have prolifically produced artwork featuring Moroccan riders and horses.[22][30]

See also


  1. ^ Steet, Linda (2000). Veils and Daggers: A Century of National Geographic's Representation of the Arab World. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 141.
  2. ^ a b c d e Talley, Gwyneth (2017). Tbourida: Performing Traditional Equestrianism as Heritage Tourism in Morocco. New York: Springer. pp. 219–240.
  3. ^ Lorenzo, Annie (1988). Cheval et tradition en Afrique du nord. Lausanne: Caracole.
  4. ^ a b Sedrati, Azeddine; Tavernier, Roger; Wallet, Bernard (1997). L'art de la Fantasia. Casablanca: Plume.
  5. ^ a b c Recueil ..., Volumes 11-12. Commission des arts et monuments historiques de la Charente-inférieure. Imprimerie Hus.
  6. ^ a b c Journal des haras, chasses, courses de chevaux, des progrès des sciences zooiatriques et de médecine compareée, Volume 47.
  7. ^ a b Parler aux chevaux autrement: approche sémiotique de l'équitation. Carlos Pereira. Editions Amphora.
  8. ^ Arabies (114-120 ed.). Arabies. 1996. p. 65.
  9. ^ a b Gwyneth Talley (2017). ""Gunpowder Women: A Generation Galloping Past the Mudawana"". (Podcast). Tangier American Legation. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  10. ^ Carlos Pereira (2009). Parler aux chevaux autrement approche sémiotique de l'équitation. Editions Amphora. p. 16. ISBN 978-2-85180-775-5.
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Tbourida" (PDF). Moroccan Ministry of Culture and Communication.
  12. ^ a b c d e "La Tbourida". Société Royale d’Encouragement du Cheval.
  13. ^ "Fantasia au Maroc".
  14. ^ Prideaux, Tom (1966). The World of Delacroix 1798-1863. New York: Time Incorporated.
  15. ^ Olmsted, Jennifer W (2009). "The Sultan's Authority: Delacroix, Painting, and Politics at the Alson of 1845". Art Bulletin XCI. 1: 83–106. doi:10.1080/00043079.2009.10786175. S2CID 154839889.
  16. ^ "El Bayadh : La procession de Sidi Cheikh, un rituel ancré dans l'histoire de la région". DK NEWS.
  17. ^ a b c d e f "Fantasia". LA FEDERATION EQUESTRE ALGERIENNE (in French). 9 Jul 2018. Retrieved 18 Dec 2021.
  18. ^ "Galerie d'art Dar El Kenz : La peinture lumineuse de Rachid Talbi". El Watan (in Haitian Creole). 21 Dec 2011. Retrieved 18 Dec 2021.
  19. ^ "Alger: Nadjib Rahmani -Le cheval et La Fantasia". L'Œil de la Photographie Magazine. Retrieved 18 Dec 2021.
  20. ^ "Alger- Exposition Vente "Fantasia des Hommes et des Traditions" à partir du 15 février". Vinyculture (in French). 10 Feb 2013. Retrieved 18 Dec 2021.
  21. ^ "Tbourida, Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity". UNESCO.
  22. ^ a b Préaudau, Philippe Babier de (1990). Maroc: Les chevaux du Royaume. Panayrac: Daniel Briand.
  23. ^ SOREC website
  24. ^ "Missions de la SOREC". Société Royale d’Encouragement du Cheval.
  25. ^ "UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage nomination form". Société Royale d'Encouragement du Cheval.
  26. ^ "La "tbourida", l'art équestre marocain, entre au galop au patrimoine immatériel de l'Unesco". FranceInfo. AFP.
  27. ^ Tbourida. UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, 2021.
  28. ^ "La "tbourida", l'art équestre marocain, entre au galop au patrimoine de l'Unesco". Geo. AFP.
  29. ^ "Tbourida -- Nomination Form". UNESCO. Société Royale d’Encouragement du Cheval.
  30. ^ "Moroccan Master Hassan El Glaoui Remembered by his Daughter Touria, Founder of 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair". Sotheby's. 22 February 2019. Retrieved 20 May 2019.