From contemporary art festivals, declarations of love and festivals that will make you feel like a Khaleesi, Morocco has it all!
If wanderlust is hitting you and you have no idea where to go, we suggest you make use of this guide and leave for Morocco, like, right now. The country is brimming with culture and the incredibly fun celebrations they hold are just a testament to that! So check out some of the coolest things that happen in Morocco all year round and be sure to get in on some of that action!
1. Marrakech Biennalle
When: April 22 to May 8
If you thought Morocco was a city that revelled in just its history, think again. The Marrakech Bienalle brings together contemporary artists with some of the most cutting edge designs and ideas together, every year. The art gathering, also known as Arts in Marrakech (AiM), is a spunky celebration of contemporary visual art, literature and film. Art exhibitions, book readings and movie screenings are held all throughout the city and people from North and South Africa, Europe and other countries like India consist of the bulk of the crowd.
2. Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
When: May 6-14, 2016
Fes is one of the major cities of Morocco. This is the place that all the creative and artsy souls come to revel in. The Festival of World Sacred Music is a congregation of some of the most gifted musicians from all over the world coming together to perform. This is one of the most famous festivals in Morocco due to its diversity. The festival also has a rich history, as it was set up in the wake of the first Gulf war as a ‘beacon of tolerance’. It is known to bring together people of all faiths such as Christians, Jews and Muslims under one roof to enjoy the beautiful music.
When: May 20-28
Mawazine is huge. It’s enormous proportions make it one of the best festivals around the world for all kinds of music, even hip hop to rap. Held in the capital city of Rabat, the festival is spread on 8 grand stages, each hosting some of the biggest international acts. Now, this kind of music and festivity is not encouraged by the Islamist mindset of most of the locals, but the festival has continued its reign as one of the coolest festivals to watch out for. Previous performers include the likes of Elton John, Kylie Minogue, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder.
4. Rose Festival
Probably one of the most visually stunning festivals, the Rose Festival is just as magical as it sounds. Nestled among the High Atlas mountains is the breathtaking Vallée des Roses, this valley bursts to life in all its pink glory every spring, as thousands of beautiful roses bloom. They are just not pretty, they also happen to be the bread and butter of El-Kelaâ M’Gouna, a small town situated close by. Right from the cultivation to harvest to production, the town undertakes every aspect of the process. Also a great contributor is the steady flow of tourists every spring.
5. Gnaoua World Music Festival
When: May 12-15, 2016
The Gnaoua World Music Festival is a big melting pot of some of the greatest talents in music. Known for their creative and musical contributions, the Gnaoua people invite masters of jazz, pop and rock from various parts of the world to come and collaborate with them to create some really great pieces of music. The sleepy town of Essaouira comes alive every year as musicians and fans alike, throng to take part in one of the most culturally rooted festivals in Morocco. It is the perfect place to explore new styles of music.
6. Timitar Music Festival
When: July 13-17
You can really know a place through its music and Timitar music festival is the perfect place to start for Morocco. The biggest event for African music, this festival has become a force to reckon with over the years. Held in Agadir, it’s a cultural project for artists from all genres to come together and make something beautiful. People from Africa, South America, Europe and the Middle East actively take part and visit. The festival includes workshops and seminars on various aspects of music and DJ-ing.
7. Imilchil Marriage Festival
Here, young couples dance under the stars the whole night, high up in the beautiful lake plateau of the Middle Atlas Mountains to capture each other’s livers. Yes, not hearts. But livers. In Berber culture, it is said that the liver and not the heart, is the location where true love resides because a healthy river aids digestion and helps you live a healthy life. Every year, more than 30,000 people from tribes such as Aït Sokham and Aït Bouguemmaz gather around to find their beloved. A simple wink or a nod are considered signals, but the most romantic is when the girl tells the boy that he has captured her liver or that her liver pines for him.
When: October 14-16
If anything Game of Thrones can get you going, head to this insane electronic music festival that is being held in Essaouira, a place much more popularly known to be one of the locations where Game of Thrones is filmed. Excited yet? We are too. The festival is going to bring together various underground African music acts and plans to create a cohesive musical atmosphere for underground music to flourish. How much are you willing to bet Kristian Nairn, actor who plays Hodor AND ALSO HAPPENS TO BE A WELL KNOWN DJ, will make a surprise entry? Fingers crossed, guys!
9. Sufi Music & Cultural Festival
When: October 22-29
If there is anything that suits the mystical Moroccan lifestyle, its a Sufi festival. With its dates freshly changed from April to October this year, we can only expect that the extra time taken is going to make the festival an even more beautiful experience. The Sufis are a very peaceful people and spend their live doing deeds and actions which they think bring them close to Allah. One of their most famous practice is meditating to the sound of repetitive beats , which sometimes culminate into trance-like dancing. The festival is deeply embedded in Moroccan culture and you should definitely check it out!
If horses are your thing, then this amazing festival is where you should be this year. The festival is a marvellous show of synchronicity. A group of men race on horses in such a way that a line is formed. And, at the end of the ride, each man fires one shot into the air as a mark of victory. Now, this may sound simple enough but the festival is so much more than that. Each rider has to be perfectly in sync with the others, so as to remain in line with the other riders. And such is the precision with firing the guns, that just one single shot is heard. Other events include dance performances, plays and live music shows.
The festival is held in the illustrious city of Casablanca. Since its inception in 2004, the festival has seen more than 400 artists. It’s one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world, famous for its acclaimed lineups, which include Grammy winners and jazz masters from all over the world. This year saw artists such as Macy Gray, Richard Bona and Melody Gardot as part of its impressive roster. The festival also pays tribute to its Berber roots, which is what the local culture is known as.