On the opening evening of the festival, a crowd gathers at the foot of the zawiya, near to the tomb of Sidi Bou Saïd where a mystic procession called kharja is about set off in the saint’s honor. A dozen men young and old wearing djebas form an inward-facing circle, chanting as they pitch forward and upright in rhythm with their voices and bendirs, green and red flags pointing high above their heads. Some who have climbed the hill to watch are still panting and beaded in sweat as the procession begins its descent down the narrow road, holding up a line of cars and stopping traffic once they reach the roundabout below. Car alarms are set off and cats dash into hiding as the river of bodies inches forward, oblivious to these distractions and continuing along its way back up towards the zawiya.