Jabal La’lâm Riff – Morocco
The site of Moulây ‘Abd al-Salâm ibn Mashîsh is named after a Moroccan Sufi Saint who lived during the 12/13th centuries, and who was a descendant of Moulây Idrîs, the founder of the Moroccan State in the 8th century. The site is located at the summit of Jabal La‘lâm (literally the mountain of the flag, banner or signal), a sacred mountain located in the Rif Mountains, in the north of Morocco. It is a place famous for an ancient cult of nature: caverns, graves, water sources, rocks, trees, all these natural elements have been incorporated through centuries in the holy man’s story.
The site in located within the Jbel Bouhachem, Site of Biological and Ecological Interest, part of the national system of protected areas and one of the core areas of the Intercontinental Reserve of Biosphere of the Mediterranean Andalusia, Spain-Morocco.
In the 16th century, under the Saadid dynasty, the mountain of Jabal La’lâm with its huge forest of cork wood and its hundred shrines was ranked, by a decree (dahîr) of the king al-Mansûr, as a sacred or inviolable place (hurm), where not only plants and animals, but also refugees could find security. That means that the ultimate responsible for the safeguard of the site is the King of Morocco. However, since the entire sacred mountain belongs to the descendants of the saint, who are the custodians of the holy place, the site is a type of protected area where natural and spiritual heritage conservation has been based on religious and spiritual values, which are included in the hurm.
The slopes of Jabal La’lâm are covered by extensive mountain Mediterranean forests, mainly cork tree forests, with a rich flora and fauna, including a variety of medicinal plants.
Currently, there is an ongoing debate between the national administration in charge, and the traditional custodians of this sacred site. The inheritors of the saint have gone to the court to claim the recognition of their right on their historical hurm (property of the sanctuary) supposed to be about 8000 ha, that they estimate now at 1186 ha, whereas the governmental agency estimates it only at about ten percent of that area. On the other hand, a regional agency of development is preparing a plan to upgrade the existing facilities to the increasing demands of the growing number of pilgrims and traditional custodians living in the village near the shrine of the site.
Jabal La’lâm, is visited by thousands of Sufi pilgrims, especially Shâdhilîs. The reason behind the reputation of the site among the Shâdhilîs is the fact that Moulây ‘Abd al-Salâm is considered to be the mystic founder of the Shâdhilî order, which has spread all over the world. The site is also a space of pilgrimage for non Sufi Muslim people, and of course, for the descendants of the saint, who see him as a role-model of the Sufi spirituality and a representative of its precious ethic values.
As one of the flag-ship sacred natural sites of Morocco, the case study of Jabal La’lâm has the potential to define good practices for improving the integration of natural, cultural and spiritual values in other Moroccan sacred natural sites.
Responsible: Zakia Zouanat