Festivals mark a celebration of humanity, the merriment of life. Morocco is a country that prides itself on strong culture and benevolent acts. Put these two elements together and you have an immersive experience filled with pure joy. Moroccan festivals are an ideal and unique experience. Aside from a myriad of religious festivals (which offer their own type of enjoyment), Morocco boasts a wide variety of secular festivals that occur throughout the year. Here are a few that are worth the extra planning.
A key aspect of Moroccan festivals is music, especially traditional music. You don’t have to go far to find fantastic traditional music festivals in Morocco, especially in the summer. One that is particularly popular is the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, which takes place annually in June. The festival uses music to connect people of different cultures and religions-an admirable mission. The location of the festival enhances in the experience; it is held in Fes, one of Morocco’s most ancient cities steeped in culture and history. The World Sacred Music festival is perfect for someone looking for culture, community and religious understanding.
If you prefer something less traditional and more international, plan to attend the breathtaking Marathon des Sables, or the Sand Marathon. This festival is truly a shocking site-participants run 151 miles in the hot, dry and precarious Moroccan desert. Before you scream balderdash, know that the race is completed in 6 days to keep the participants safe. Due to the weeklong nature of the event, onlookers should feel free to attend only part of it to get the full experience. The approximate 600 runners are intense, each representing a different country (with more than 30 countries represented). The festival brings life to the Sahara in April and allows the curious to spend some time in the desert. After the race, spend some time with the Tuareg Tribe before leaving the dunes.
Need something a little less adventurous? The Gnaoua World Music Festival, held annually in beautiful Essaouira, may be the right festival for you. The festival hosts an exchange between old and new. Named after the Gnawa people, a group of people originally from the Sahara Desert, the festival highlights the difference between tradition and modernity. In addition to hosting Gnaoua musicians, foreign performers from a wide array of genres including pop, rock and jazz also perform.
Meanwhile, the more artsy can choose to attend the International Film Festival of Marrakech. The festival is the largest one of its kind committed to Moroccan cinema. At the end of the showings, a diverse group of judges hand out prestigious awards to the filmmakers and actors.
Festivals in Morocco go beyond the surface of a cultural experience. Instead, festivals provide travelers a rare opportunity to join locals in united celebration. It’s during moments of pure enjoyment that the true Moroccan disposition is really highlighted and pure jubilance exposed. Festivalgoers comment that no matter where you are from, fun is universal.
Written by Anna Sandor.