Al-Magharibah — Where tradition meets sanctity
AL-MAGHARIBAH is a famous neighborhood in Madinah named after the hundreds of people from Morocco and North Africa who settled in the district. Even though decades have passed since the inhabitants left their home countries, residents still hold on to their cultural traditions, including North African dishes, including the famous mango juice and buffalo milk drinks.
Al-Magharibah is also known for its must-see Eid celebrations where wooden swings are set up and foosball tables and bikes are made available to children. Moreover, Al-Magharibah remains a well-remembered area in Madinah because of its proximity to the Prophet’s Mosque.
“The best thing about Al-Magharibah is the lively spirit of the people living here and its closeness to the Prophet’s Mosque. When we were little boys, we used to wait in line at the neighborhood’s water well as there were only three. No one had electricity at the time, about 40 years ago, so we would wait in line to collect water for our homes,” said longtime resident Yousef Shakir.
Rida Al-Zaitouni, a famous olive vendor in the neighborhood, said Al-Magharibah is actually a part of what was previously known as Al-Tajouri province.
“My grandfather and father were among the first people to live in this neighborhood back in 1950s. At the time, only farmers settled here. Al-Magharibah district has many historical sites, such as Al-Jumuah Mosque where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed. The neighborhood is located between the coasts of two of the most famous rivers in Madinah, the Ranona’ and the Bathan,” she said.
Abdulsattar Shagroun, the grandson of one of the most famous bakers in the neighborhood, said some people have moved out but there are still many families who refuse to leave the area.
“The oldest house in the neighborhood belongs to a man known as Jaafar. The house hosted many remarkable people such as Mohammad Eid Alkhatrawi, Ameen Murshid and his son Ahmad Ameen Murshid (whose brother now works in the Madinah municipality as an engineer), Al-Toulah family and Mohammad Sanousi’s family,” he said.
The neighborhood also housed some of the most-remembered muezzins such as Sheikh Abdulaziz Bukhari and Sheikh Usam Bukhari.
Residents also remember folklore games and activities that children in the neighborhood used to play such as the Ajal game and Mizmar dance. The Ajal game originated from Yanbu and later became famous in Madinah because of the many families that moved to the city from Yanbu.
Participants in the Mizmar dance move while twirling a cane to the beat of drums. With strong influences from Africa, residents of Al-Magharibah said their version of the dance does not involve bloodshed.
“The Mizmar in Hijaz is not like how it is performed in Africa, where it originated. Mizmar in Africa is more of a war demonstration where real fighting takes place and blood is often shed. However, in Hijaz, participants can only defend themselves. In Africa, the Mizmar dance symbolizes revenge, vengeance and other strange rituals,” said resident Hussein Al-Yunbuawi.
“In Al-Magharibah, it symbolizes courage, appreciation and respect. People show off their skills by performing around a fire in the middle of an open area. The cane used is from a nut tree and the cane itself was introduced to the Hijazi people by pilgrims from India, Pakistan and Egypt.”