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Ahwash dancers, 1969

Ahwash (also spelled ahwach or ahouach in Latin characters, amazigh, tifinagh-written, ⴰⵃⵡⴰⵛ, IPA /æħwæʃ/) is a style of collective performance from southern Morocco. The ahwash is performed as a celebration of the community.


The ahwash is usually performed by two large groups of people who alternate their performances of song, dance, poetry, and drumming on frame drums. The dance is not typically performed outside of individual villages because of the difficulty that would be involved with transporting the large number of participants (often more than twenty, and sometimes 150 or more). As a result, the ahwash has developed somewhat independently among different villages, and the details of the performances differ.[1]


Ahwash may have come from Telouet, though historians have struggled to conclusively determine its origins because of the lack of written history. Some believe the dance migrated along with the tribes and villages in the area.[2] The dance is now found throughout the High Atlas and Sous regions.[1]

Religion and spirituality[edit]

The ahwash is recognized by many Moroccans to involve some pre-Islamic components. In some ways it is both aligned with and in opposition to local religion. In most places, an ahwash is performed in front of a saint's tomb during a museum (a religious pilgrimage). In some, it is disallowed for fear of offending the saint, or for fear of the combination of the saint's power and the power of the ahwash. Some religious figures choose not to take part in the ahwash because they believe the devil is a part of the performance.[1]

The ahwash itself is a spiritual and sometimes supernatural experience; there are many stories from southern Moroccan villages of performers who are clairvoyant.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Schuyler, Philip D. (1979-01-01). "Rwais and Ahwash: Opposing tendencies in Moroccan Berber Music and Society". The World of Music. 21 (1): 65–80. JSTOR 43560588.
  2. ^ Boudraa, Nabil; Krause, Joseph (2009-03-26). North African Mosaic: A Cultural Reappraisal of Ethnic and Religious Minorities. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. ISBN 9781443807685.