Fading Traditions

Fading Traditions

Moroccan halakis

  • Fading Traditions

    • Part One
      The Moroccan halakis' dying art of story-telling
    • Part Two
      Will Georgia lose its 7000-year old wine producing tradition?
    • Part Three
      Temple prostitutes - the clash of ancient and modern culture in India

Three programmes investigating ancient traditions and ways of life - two of which have sparked struggles for survival; the third, a campaign for eradication.

Part One: Stories from Marrakesh

Morocco has one of the oldest story-telling traditions in the world.

Experts say the craft of telling tales in the north African kingdom is at least a thousand years old.

Until recently nomadic story-tellers or halakis could be seen travelling around the country reciting fables from A thousand and One Nights and the Old Testament.

The narrators would set up in the public squares of the ancient imperial cities of Fes, Meknes and Marrakesh and entrance crowds with their wondrous animated stories. The fables are not just entertainment but morality tales, teaching what has been a largely illiterate society ethical values, such as chivalry, kindness and honour.

But now these men, who have handed down their skills from generation to generation, have all but died out. Marrakesh is now the only place in Morocco where you can still find halakis but they are all old men and there are only about half a dozen left.

With modern technology offering new forms of entertainment and distraction, such as computer games, satellite television and DVDs, young Moroccans are ignoring the story tellers and for the first time in perhaps a millennium, the tradition is in real danger of extinction.

But there may be some hope for the halakis - the United Nations cultural organisation UNESCO is trying to record the stories on the internet so that these oral treasures can be preserved for posterity.

Richard Hamilton asks if this fascinating tradition can survive and what is at stake, if it's lost.

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