Sunday, 5 March 2017

Sidi Belkas

The suburb we live in is called Sidi Boukas or Belkas. Until the 1980s there was no development outside the walls on this side of town, all there was were the tannery, brickyard and cemetery, all of which were traditionally sited outside the medina and away from homes. Gradually from the 80s the area became more developed with a major warehouse, flour mill and various noisy craft works, carpentry, metalworking and mechanics that were better situated away from the domestically congested medina. Houses and flats for the artisans followed and a mosque and a school. There are still vacant lots but it is quite a bustling area and there are lots of essentials shops, hanuts, greengrocers, etc. I suppose it is the poor side of town , not where  aspirationals would live but those quiet areas have fewer local shopping opportunities and I like the hanut being 20yards from the front door when I find the milk is off and I am sure Beloved does when the gas runs out.

Anyway back to Sidi Belkas. It is named after the marabout, or muslim "saint" who is buried in the cemetery. Although Islam eschews any intervention or agency between the believer and Allah in the catholic sense, there is a long tradition of veneration of holy men in the Mahgreb, possibly reflecting pre-islamic customs. Such holy men are given the honorific "Sidi"  contrasting with the classical arabic term "walliy" for saint. Sidi Boukas' qubba or tomb may be in the cemetery but I have been unable to learn any particulars about him nor does there seem to be agreement as to how too transliterate his name.There seems no regular moussem and the people I ask do not seem to know anything about him. Today the qubba stands in a field looking picturesque.

 There are lots of qubbas around. A standard grave is marked by a pile of whjite stones or possibly a long thin horizontal gravestone. A qubba iis usually a cubic building painted white with a dome. although particularly important saints may have much more elaborate tombs such as that of Sidi Muhammed bin Nasir al-Drawi at Tamegroute.

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