Sand hockey, or “mokhacha” in the local Hassani Arabic dialect, is a favorite pastime for nomads in Moroccan desserts, according to France 24.
This sport shares similarities with field and ice hockey but is played barefoot and instills the use of palm wood sticks.
The participants at the recent International Nomads Festival in M’hamid El Ghizlane embraced their heritage and showcased this Saharan tradition, playing in traditional attire under the desert sun. With passionate fans cheering them on, the players left their mark on the sandy pitch, once a bustling stop on the legendary Timbuktu caravan route. Donning the iconic daraa tunics and cheche cloth turbans, the two teams clashed in a thrilling sand hockey showdown on May 1st, joining other festivities that celebrated the rich culture of song, dance, and desert traditions.
Rachid Laghouanm, who heads an association dedicated to preserving traditional sports and games in M’hamid El Ghizlane, emphasized the significance of sand hockey as a treasured part of their ancestral heritage. He stressed the importance of safeguarding the game from fading into oblivion, with efforts to raise awareness through organized competitions and player engagement.
Sand hockey has existed for as long as any other form of hockey, and according to the UK-based Hockey Museum, dates “back over hundreds of years…” and “…is almost unchanged, to this day.” While the exact origins of hockey remain a mystery, one thing is certain, the nomads had no clue that Westerners had their own version of the game.
So, if you ever find yourself near the Sahara, keep an eye out for these intrepid nomads and their sand hockey antics. It’s a sight that will leave you marveling at the resilience of tradition and the sheer fun of this unique sport.