From running over 250 kms across the Sahara to attending the most popular traditional African music festivals, from horsemen riding and firing muskets in perfect sync to fasting during the daylight hours for a month.
Morocco’s festivals & events are exciting. As a tourist, these are some beautiful fiestas you can experience when you travel to Morocco.
Here are the top 10 festivals which take place in Morocco which you must definitely check out.
10) Imilchil Wedding Festival
Legend says that two stars crossed lovers wanted to marry each other, but as they were from two different tribes, their families didn’t allow it. So, as most tragic love stories go, they cried themselves to death, and their tears filled up two rivers in the region.
But as both these rivers were separated by a mountain, they couldn’t be together even in the afterlife. They were forever doomed to crave something they couldn’t have.
Their families were ridden by guilt, and as the anniversary of their deaths, the young members of one tribe, marry someone from the other to prevent another tragedy like this befalling a young couple again.
Well, these days they don’t exactly get married, but a lot of people meet each other and a few get engaged. And thus, the Imilchil Wedding Festival was born as a symbol of love and tragedy.
Apart from the wedding, Imilchil is a small town with a population of around 2000 due to which this place isn’t crowded & it’s quite peaceful. It’s a beautiful place to visit because of the great camping spots, and its scenic views.
9) Gnaoua and World Music Festival, Essaouira
Essaouira is a port city in Morocco and around 350 kilometres from Casablanca. The Gnaoua is a spiritual brotherhood of mystics. They tend to combine ritual poetry with traditional music and dancing.
Over 500,000 tourists end up visiting this festival every year and it lasts for a period of four days in June. The festival begins at sunset, and it goes on for hours.
During high tide, this beautiful port city sometimes becomes an island city and the fish here is delicious. The city is also famous for its water sports.
8) Marrakech Popular Arts Festival
The Marrakech Popular Arts festival which takes place at the historic El Badi Palace is a spectacle of folk dancers, belly dancers, fusion musicians performing on a stage.
The palm and olive trees of Menara give you a different vibe. They’re really peaceful and you generally tend to forget the noise and crowds when you walk through the garden.
Hundreds of horsemen dressed in traditional clothes with muskets charge in a straight line at the same speed kicking up a cloud of red dust in their wake. And in one swift move, they fire their muskets reminiscent of 8th century Morocco. Venture out of the palace to witness this.
6) Marathon des Sables
This festival commemorates the Greek soldier Pheidippides who ran approximately 40 kms from the battlefield from Marathon to Athens, in Greece in 490 B.C to announce the defeat of the Persians.
He delivered the message and dropped dead. So the usual marathon is around 42 kilometres. Imagine running six times that, in the Sahara, and having to carry your own food and water in a backpack the entire time.
That’s the legendary Marathon des Sables. Also known as the Sahara Marathon, it goes on for over six days and spans over 250 kms and the entire thing is held in the Sahara Desert.
Around 1,200 people sign up for this event every year. In case you’re considering running, there’s a two-year waiting list.
5) Fez Festival of World Sacred Music
The Fez world festival of sacred music is an annual festival held for a week in June. It brings together the most well-known spiritual dancers and musicians of Morocco and around the world.
Over 100,000 people from all over the world attend this festival annually. It is unique in the sense that it combines high art, entertainment and spiritual energy and intellectual challenges. Fez is known as the cultural capital of Morocco.
4) Kelaa-des-Mgouna Rose Festival
Kelaa-des-Mgouna Rose is the most unique and oldest festivals in Morocco. Held annually, and for three days in June, it takes place in the valley of Roses. The locals celebrate the harvest of the roses in the town of Kelaat M’gouna.
Well, you could find almost anything made of roses here. Perfumes, creams, medicines and even jams. Oh, and rose water here is fabulous.
This tends to attract around 20,000 visitors annually. If you felt that didn’t make it unique enough, on the last day of the festival, which is usually a Sunday, they elect Miss Roses. The women of Morocco dressed in kaftans and decorated with roses come out to dance.
3) Timitar Music Festival
Timitar takes place in Agadir, a major city well known for its beaches on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and the foot of the Atlas mountains.
Timitar is one of Africa’s most renowned music festivals and has over 500,000 attendees annually. Since its inception, it became well known not only as a concert venue, but also as a social movement and began attracting a lot of open-minded people who want to see the human species evolve.
The performers here are generally of various cultural backgrounds, and their impact far exceeds the geographical limits of the country. Jazz, electro, folk are some of the popular music played here.
2) Eid al-Adha
The festival commemorates the sacrifice of the Islamic Prophet Ibrahim.
Legend says that for two nights in a row Prophet Ibrahim had a dream where Allah commanded him to sacrifice his son, Ismail, whom he loved dearly.
When Ibhrahim told Ismail, him being a faithful son told his father to do as Allah commanded. Ibrahim took his son to Mount Arafat to make the sacrifice.
Ibhrahim was blindfolded as he didn’t want to watch his son suffer. After the act, Ibhramin opened the blindfold and saw that he had sacrificed a ram and Ismail was standing beside him. They then heard a voice reminding them that Allah looks after his faithful followers, and hence Ismail had been spared. This was a test, and Ibrahim had passed.
To commemorate this, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha and perform Qurbani, where they make a sacrifice of an animal. The meat is later shared equally amongst friends, family and the poor. Eid ul-Adha is also the last day of the Haji, which is the pilgrimage to Makkah in Saudi Arabia.
1) Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr
Ramadan is the holy month where believers of Islam fast during daylight hours. They aren’t allowed to eat or drink anything until the prayer which takes place after the sunset, for a month. This is meant to grow their mental strength and increase their patience, and also to understand the pain and suffering a lot of people go through.
A lot of wealthy families feed the poor and less fortunate while they break the fast. Eid al-Fitr, or the ‘festival of breaking the fast’, is a religious holiday celebrated by Muslims to mark the end of Ramadan.
Morocco is a beautifully diverse country and as a traveler, you tend to get a different perspective and these festivals provide a great insight into Morocco’s cultures & traditions.
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