FESTIVALS & EVENTS IN MOROCCO
Moussems (festivals) that honour marabouts
(local saints) pepper the Moroccan
calendar. Although some are no more than
an unusually lively market day, others have
taken on regional and even national importance.
These festivals are common among
the Berbers and are usually held during the
Moussems exist on the frontier where Islamic
orthodoxy and local custom have met
and compromised. Although the veneration
of saints is frowned upon by more orthodox
Sunni Muslims, these festivals take
their inspiration from a mix of pre-Islamic
Berber tradition and Sufi mystic thought.
Some of the more excessive manifestations,
such as self-mutilation while in an ecstatic
trance, were once a common sight at such
gatherings. Today they have all but disappeared
in the face of official disapproval of
Itís worth making enquiries at tourist
offices to determine when moussems
and other such festivals are due to happen.
Some of the most important festivals
and events, in chronological order, are as
Almond Blossom Festival
A very pretty festival held
in late February to early March in the Ameln Valley near
Tafraoute when the valley is awash with blossom .
Marathon des Sables (www.saharamarathon.co.uk)
six-day foot race 243km across the desert, held in March or
April. It starts and finishes in Ouarzazate.
Nomad Festival A celebration of nomadic culture in
MíHamid every March or April, with street performances,
food, crafts and camel trips .
Moussem of Sidi Abdallah ibn Hassoun A procession
of huge wax candle lanterns, carried by local brotherhoods
to the Grand Mosque amid music and dancing. Held on the
eve of Mouloud, the Prophetís birthday.
Festival of Sufi Culture A spin-off from the Sacred
Music Festival, this new Fez outing has concerts, workshops
and cultural exchanges.
Rose Festival A colourful local festival celebrating the
huge harvest of Persian roses in the valley around Kela‚
MíGouna, close to Ouarzazate. Dancers are showered
with rose petals and children sell fragrant garlands at the
roadside. Usually held in May .
Festival du Desert (www.festivaldudesert.ma) A
celebration of music and dance held in May between
Er-Rachidia, Merzouga and Rissani, with musicians from all
across the Sahara.
Gnaoua and World Music Festival (www.festival
-gnaoua.co.ma) A passionate celebration held in Essaouira
on the third weekend of June, with concerts featuring
international, national and local performers, and art
Moussem of Sidi Mohammed Ma al-Ainin Held at
Tan Tan, in late May or early June, this is an occasion where
you may see Tuareg nomads from the Sahara; it also acts
as a commercial gathering for tribes people.
Moussem of Ben AÔssa Held at MeknŤsí Koubba of
Sidi ben AÔssa; one of the countryís largest moussems,
full of medieval pageantry with illusionists and daredevil
Festival of World Sacred Music A huge nine-day
festival in Fez with great (and deserved) international attention.
Concerts are held at the Dar Batha Museum, Grand
Mechouar and Volubilis.
Cherry Festival Sefrouís annual festival held in early
June lasting three days with lots of folk music and dancing.
Culminates in the picturesque crowning of the Cherry
Festival International de Rabat Features musicians
from all over Africa as well as some traditional theatre. The
festival is also the venue for an annual film festival.
Moussem of Sidi Bousselham Held in Moulay Bousselham
near Larache, this is another large-scale moussem
commemorating the local saint, in a beautiful location
overlooking the sea.
Festival of Casablanca City festival focusing on street
theatre, music and cinema.
Marrakesh Popular Arts Festival (www.maghrebarts
.ma, in French) A hugely colourful festival held in Marrakesh,celebrating Berber music and dance, and attracting
performers from all over the country.
Moussem & Camel Market A large camel-traders fair
that brings Goulmime to life; it is as much a trade event as
a religious get-together.
International Cultural Festival An arts festival held
in Assilah celebrating contemporary art with public art
demonstrations and workshops (some for children), and
other theatrical and musical performances.
Timitar Agadirís annual day in the musical sun, with
Moroccan and international performers.
Moussem of Moulay Abdallah Held south of El-Jadida
in the small village of Sidi Bouzid, this huge festival is a
full-on fantasia with people gathering from all the surrounding
Moussem of Sidi Ahmed Held in Tiznit, this largely
religious celebration sees devotees dedicating themselves
to pilgrimage and prayer.
Marriage Festival A famous three-day festival held in
late September at Imilchil, where thousands of people
gather for the serious business of wedlock: women at this
festival get to choose prospective husbands.
Moussem of Moulay Idriss II The largest city moussem
in holy Fez, held in late September or early October, when
thousands gather to watch the processions to the saintís
International Film Festival (www.festival-marrakech
.com) A weeklong festival held in September or October
that showcases Arab and African cinema, as well as films
Date Festival Held in Erfoud late in October to celebrate
the date harvest, the lifeblood of the oases villages. Lots
of music and dancing bring this corner of the desert to