SALE, Morocco – A large parade with historic roots takes place in the Moroccan city of Sale each year to mark the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, an occasion Muslims around the world observe as Mawlid an-Nabi.
Sale, a bustling city of about 890,000 residents across the Bouregreg River from the kingdom's capital, Rabat, transforms as residents join the procession. A Saadian dynasty monarch who ruled Morocco in the 1570s is believed to have imported the procession from the Ottoman Empire.
The parade has been held continuously since then. Men carrying wooden structures that resemble the minarets on mosques lead it off. Colorful candles arranged like mosaic tiles and spelling out the names of Allah, Muhammad, and members of the Moroccan royal family adorn the towers.
Children in traditional dress and musicians with horns and drums take part in the choreographed spectacle, which swells in size as people chase and merge with the festive throng moving through the old medina quarter. Families take to the streets and cheer from balconies.
The parade that takes place on the eve of the date recognized as Muhammad's birthday — Dec. 1 this year — is the main event of a weeklong festival that gives local bands the chance to perform and receive tips from patrons.