Zawiya Ahansal is uniquely layered with a tapestry of tribal rights, pastoral lands, unique local traditions, and stunning natural beauty. The local languages are Tamazight, Moroccan Arabic (darija), Classical Arabic, and French.
Historically, Zawiya Ahansal was a prosperous region in terms of both monetary wealth and knowledge. Located along the Ahansal River, it was blessed with fresh water, plentiful grazing lands, and a harsh landscape easily defended against rival tribes. Its strategic geographic location on a prominent caravan route across the Atlas Mountains to the plains of Marrakesh supported the establishment of religious schools and even libraries in this small and remote region.
Photo: Local traditions include Ahidous music.
The zawiya’s following continued to grow and an abundance of annual pilgrims visited the region during the Islamic month of shawaal bearing gifts (clothing, food, etc.) for the saint Sidi Said Ahansal and his descendants. It maintained this prosperity, and the independence that grew from it, for centuries. The highly decorated ighrman (collective granaries and saint houses) and marabout (saint graves) that were built during this time are reminders of this prosperity.
But in 1933, it was one of the last strongholds of Morocco to fall to the French Protectorate. This event greatly impacted the region’s social structure and economic status.
Zawiya Ahansal experienced a significant decrease in pilgrims (and their gifts) and travelers on the trodden routes over the Atlas Mountains as a result of the French Protectorate, the successive constitutional monarchy creation, the country’s gradually increasing infrastructure (paved ways), and a shift in religious beliefs and support of zawiya teachings across the country.
Photo: A saints house in Zawiya Ahansal.