The legendary Valley of Roses Festival can be traced back to 1938 when the French first brought the Damask rose to Morocco. Set in the El-Kelaa M’Gouna region of Morocco, the Rose Festival is an annual three-day event that takes place in the heart of the Valley of the Roses. Morocco’s Rose Festival occupies the souk area of El Kelaa Des Mgouna, the town responsible for the rosy festivities. During this time, travelers come from all over to attend the festivities where a Rose Queen is elected to reign over the year’s scented crop. The factories in El Kelaa Des Mgouna produce 3000-4000 petals a year. With ten tons of petals required to produce a few liters of precious oil, the harvest is understandably q labor of love and the culminating festivities of the annual Rose Festival are all the livelier for it. Visitors will find women covered in roses from head to toe, dressed to the nine’s in ornate caftans with colorful sequins. Unique to this festival is the rose perfumed streets, Moroccan women wearing traditional headscarves decorated with bright colored velvety flowers, and boys and girls wearing rose-garlands. Florally decorated floats, camel-rides, and an excursion organized by the festival coordinators to take a bus ride from Ouarzazate to the Valley of the Roses are a few of the highlights available to all.
The Fes Festival of Sacred World Music is held each year in June within the UNESCO city of Fes. The festival attracts people from around the world, all interested in discovering the spirit of Fes. The Fes Festival is host to exceptional musicians who perform at concerts throughout the city’s historic walls. Intimate afternoon concerts, art and film exhibitions and poetry readings are offered at the Dar Batha Museum, its surrounding Andalusian gardens and at boutique riads in the medina.
A four-day Forum called Rencontres de Fes where politicians, social activists, academics and religious leaders come together in dialogue to discuss the urgent issues of our times. These include conflict resolution, climate change, urban renewal, social justice and much more.
In the morning, visitors can take part in seminars or round table discussions covering topics related to the festival. In the afternoon, evening, and late at night, there are concerts given by performers arriving from every angle of the globe. The musical spectrum is wide and includes everything from European classical, Sufi ritual songs and trance, Arab-Andalusian rhythms, a Bulgarian orthodox choir, Hindustani chants, Celtic sacred music, Christian Gospel, Swedish chamber choir, Pakistani Qawwali incantations, Egyptian madhi odes, flamenco-style Christian saeta, ancient Indian gwalior chants and Turkish whirling dervishes. The Fes Festival is a unique experience that combines high art, popular entertainment, spiritual energy and intellectual challenges. It resonates with the essence of our times and is rooted in The Spirit of Fes.
Since the first edition in 1988, the Gnaoua Festival continues to be an important annual event that takes place each June and attracts a cosmopolitan audience of 500,000 + festival-goers. The Gnaoua Festival offers 10 concert sites with complementary programs that cater to a range of musical tastes. The festival’s mission is to highlight Essaouira’s rich Gnaoua heritage and create a musical friendship bridge with the best world musicians and jazz performers. Invitations are sent to world musicians in the months leading up to June.
Great musicians who have performed at The Gnaoua Festival since its first edition in 1988 are: Trio Joubran with bluesman Justin Adams, Toumani Diabaté, Eric Legnini, KyManiMarley, Wayne Shorter, the National Orchestra of Barbès, Hassan Hakmoun, Will Calhoun, Adam Rudolph, Sussan Deyhim, Steve Shehan, Yéyé Kanté, Adam Rudolph, Mokhtar Samba, Yaya Ouattara, Jamey Haddad, Jacques Schwarz-Bart, Randy Weston, Adam Rudolph, The Wailers, Pharoh Sanders, Keziah Jones, Omar Sosa, Doudou N’Diaye Rose, the Italian trumpet player Paolo Fresau and Ramon Valle.
The 14th international Jazz festival will take place this July in Casablanca. Since 2006, over 400 artists from around the world have performed at Jazzablanca. Jazzablanca 2018 saw over 75,000 participants grace the floors of its multicultural music arena. The festival has yet to release names of this year’s performers. Performers in 2018 included artists Beth Ditto, Tom Odell, Africa Band, St. Germain, Fred Wesley and the New J.B’s, Kamaal Williams, Jowee Omicil, and Scott Bradley’s Post Modern Juxebox. Jazzablanca’s aim is to spotlight local Moroccan Jazz talent.
The Timitar Festival will celebrate its 16th anniversary in Agadir, this July. Agadir is a town situated in Morocco’s Souss Massa region. The four-day festival is a revered musical celebration that strives to preserve Amazigh music and culture. Each year crowds gather on the coast of Agadir to hear the best in Berber music. Musicians accompany their singers with the gimbri and nuisquat instruments. Some of the musicians who have previously attended the festival and captured the spirit of Amazigh music are Imghrane, Hamid Inerzaf, Toudert, Imdoukal, and Oudade. Contemporary young musicians are also introduced; last year’s program included Farid Ghannam, Shayfeen, Aminux, Rai YouNess, Ayman Serhani and Douzi. The Timitar Festival in 2019 will introduce a total of 49 artists, some of which are new and hail from Senegal, Lebanon, Sweden, France, Spain, Netherlands, Palestine, Tunisia, Niger, Mali, Madagascar, The Canary Islands, Germany, Jamaica, and the United States.
Tafroute, a small Berber city in Southern Morocco with stunning views of the Anti-Atlas Mountains. The village is remote however continues to be Morocco traveler’s radar for its trekking opportunities and its annual festival. In February, almonds are harvested and used to make Amlou at the Almond Blossom Mousseum which take place in August. Local bands play music at the annual Tafroute festival. If you are planning to travel to Morocco in summer, the Tafroute summer festival lends the perfect opportunity for full immersion in Berber village art and traditional customs.
Each August the rural commune of Moulay Abdellah, a province of El Jadida, organizes the annual fantasia horse festival in the city of Tit. The event place takes over a 7-day period and brings together more than 500,000 people from all over Morocco and abroad. The ancient art of equestrian sports and warfighting is showcased on horseback. The festival also includes Folk music and dance of the region. Ceremonial performances at 9:30 am, 1 pm, 4 pm, and at sunset are not to be missed, where 2,000 horsemen adorned in elaborate white djellabas point their rifles towards the sky, a symbolic gesture of respecting ancient traditions.
The Imichil Marriage Festival is a one-of-a-kind experience where Berber families and various local tribes gather to create opportunities for their sons and daughters to meet. The festival is rooted in ancient culture and tradition so if you are lucky enough to observe this, you will witness the early stages of arranged marriage agreements and old world marriage proposals. You may even get lucky and see an impromptu wedding ceremony. The Imilchil Marriage Festival is the prime attraction of this village and takes place annually in September. Each September, the surrounding tribes, Aït Sokham and Aït Bouguemmaz celebrate the Imilchil Marriage Festival, held in Souk Aam and Agdoud N’Oulmghenni. This festival, also known as September Romance, features the Aït Yaazza culture of an annual collective marriage where women search and choose their husband. The fiancé’ part of the festival is staged on the site of the tomb of the Oldman, who is venerated in the high atlas. Close to 30,000 people from the mountains assemble under tents for three days with their flocks, their horses and camels. It is an occasion when young girls to dress up and wear their finery, their sumptuous silver jewelry, and dance for hours under the stars.
This September, TanJazz festival, which has brought hundreds of musicians to the literary city of Tangier, will celebrate its 20th year in Morocco. The festival spans four days in which you can participate in interesting workshops, conferences, and meetings with the musicians and artists who will perform at Tanjazz. For Jazz lovers, this is an especially unique opportunity to be immersed in all the rhythms and sounds of Jazz. Performers play all the main genres including Jazz Rock, Swing, Ragtime, Free Jazz, and Bebop at the free concerts filling Tangier’s streets and plazas.