with this festival I will let local cultural guru Matt give you a run-down:
Matt here! So, way back in the day Muhammad died, as all men do. After he
died they needed to pick a successor to lead the Muslim community. Most
people wanted Muhammad's friend Abu Bakr to take over. A small group of
people called <em>shi'a</em> wanted Muhammad's nephew, Ali, to take over.
After Abu Bakr another Caliph was chosen. After him there was another and
after <em>that</em> one Ali took over. Unfortunately Ali was martyred
shortly thereafter. The Shi'as were distraught. Since then the Shi'a
people have a tradition of holding a solemn festival to remember his death.
They hit themselves with knives and metal whips on the tenth day of the
Lunar month of Muharram. The culminaion of the whole thing takes place
right outside my door!!
So there you have it. You can also check the wikipedia article -
Watch for *loads* of videos of us attempting to be CNN reporters over the
next little while of the actual festival happening right outside Matt's