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Moroccan nomads promote ancient sport of sand hockey

Locals play hockey during the 15th International Nomad Festival in Mhamid el-Ghizlane in Morocco's southern Sahara desert on March 24, 2018.   -  
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FADEL SENNA/AFP or licensors


In Morocco, nomads are promoting a traditional sport that is part of their ancestral heritage.

Sand hockey is an ancient pastime among nomads. All you need is a ball made from camel wool and palm tree sticks.

"Our ancestors played this game in their spare time, when they travelled in caravans and stopped to rest. They made the ball from camel wool and the sticks from palm wood, there was no set time for the game, they played until they got tired and stopped", said sand hockey player Hamza Boudan.

Forms of sand hockey are also enjoyed in Ethiopia, where it is called Genna, and in Tunisia under the name of Oggaf. Here they call it "mokhacha".

"The ball is made from camel wool, the same material used to make the nomads' tents, and the stick called "el mokhach" and it is carved from palm wood" added Boudan.

The origins of this game remain a mystery. Some experts believe that hockey's precursor was a stick-and-ball game with origins as far back as ancient Greece and Egypt.

"It is an ancestral heritage that has been passed down from father to son. We have been playing it for years, sometimes in two teams of five players each, one white and one blue, other times with four players per team", concluded Hamadi Boudani, another sand hockey player. 

The sport was recently showcased during the annual Nomads Festival which also celebrates song and dance and other desert traditions.

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