Moroccans know how to celebrate. There’s always a festival happening somewhere and it’s a great way to experience the culture. Year-round, different regions across the country honor their ethnic heritage with traditional dance, music, and local cuisine.
Moroccans are always celebrating since there is so much to celebrate in this diverse and rich culture. From historical events to sacred ceremonies and religious festivals, there is no shortage of music and dancing. Festivals take place not only in big cities like Casablanca and Marrakech, but also in small villages near the desert of Morocco and in the Atlas Mountains. Attending a festival gives you an intimate glimpse into special ceremonies and rituals so you can learn more facts about Morocco culture and a great opportunity for you to connect with the locals. Throughout the year, many moussems (religious events) are also celebrated. Your camel tour and Sahara Desert trip can be planned in accordance with a Moroccan festival to fully experience the culture of Morocco.
Tan Tan Moussem
Tan Tan celebrates the cultural heritage of over 30 nomadic tribes from across the Sahara Desert and usually takes place in late May or early June in southwest Morocco. Since 1963, this event brings together Saharan peoples to acknowledge their customs and heritage. There is camel trading, music, and dancing. Tan Tan is listed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage register since 2008. A major highlight of this festival is Fantasia, a dramatic, choreographed reenactment of a traditional Amazigh/Berber attack on horseback. The festival was suspended from 1979- 2004 because of tensions in Western Sahara but has since been revived by the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism and UNESCO. This preservation of nomadic life is crucial to protect the tribes and keep their traditions and history alive.
Festival of the Roses
Every May, the rose harvest is celebrated in the town of Kalaat Mgouna located in the Dades Valley surrounded by the High Atlas Mountains. For three to four days, this small town sees lots of action. Festivities include a rose parade with gorgeous roses arranged on floats and a Miss Rose Beauty Pageant is held and a Queen is crowned. There are also traditional song and dance performances. Many rosewater factories are open to the public and offer tours where you can also purchase rose products like the infamous rose water used in Moroccan cuisine and perfumes. Other products available are rose oils, hand and body soaps, and dried flowers. The dates of the festival vary depending on the time of the harvest each year.
Fes Sacred World Music Festival
This fascinating, cultural event spans over 10 days at the end of May and celebrates sacred and spiritual world music created by musicians from different faiths who gather here from around the world to perform together. This festival was founded in 1994 by Faouzi Skali, a Moroccan philanthropist and scholar with the intention of encouraging native and international musicians, artists, and scholars to unite through music. Festivities include free concerts and a film festival to coincide with the events. There is also the Rencontres de Fes- a four-day forum where religious leaders, scholars, social activists, and politicians come together. There are also poetry readings, art exhibitions, and Sufi music rituals performed nightly at midnight.
Gnaoua World Music Festival
The music and cultural heritage of the Gnaoua people are honored and celebrated over four days in June in the Atlantic port city of Essaouira. Several open-air venues host music and dance performances around the city. Gnaouan music combines spiritual and hypnotic rhythms influenced by Sub-Saharan Africa, Amazigh/Berber, and Arabic religious songs. Acrobatic dance is also performed alongside the music to heighten the experience and share the energy. Historically, Gnaouans were black slaves taken from Mali, Ghana and New Guinea intended to be used as guards for the sultans of Morocco. Today, descendants of the Gnaouan peoples continue to create this powerful and mystical music. Foreign artists are also invited to perform and an eclectic mix of jazz, pop, rock, and contemporary music adds to the festivities.
Imichil Marriage Festival
Until recently, this sacred event was closed off to foreigners. This annual gathering is held in the small town of Imichil, located in the Middle Atlas Mountains of central Morocco. This traditional event is estimated to be over 1,000 years old. Young women and men from the Amazigh/Berber tribes of the Ait Sokham, Ait Hadiddou, and Ait Bouguemmaz gather here and are free to choose a potential partner for marriage. Women dress in their finest, traditional clothing adorned with jewelry. Weddings are not performed, but engagements are recognized and confirmed. Visitors set up tents and nearly 30,000 people from surrounding areas attend. This is also a time for the tribes to trade goods, buy livestock, and stock up on provisions for the long winter ahead. The festival takes place at the end of September and lasts three days. This is a fascinating and unique opportunity to experience.
Marrakech Popular Arts Festival
For ten days in July, artists and entertainers from around Morocco and the world gather in Marrakech transforming the city into a carnival atmosphere. There is an eclectic assortment of performances by traditional belly dancers, acrobats, folk dancers, snake charmers, fortune tellers, Amazigh/Berber, and international musicians and theater troupes. Many events take place at Djemma el Fna, the city’s main square, and the entertainment level is amplified. Other events take place amongst the 16th-century ruins of the El Badi Palace transforming the ancient structure into a living, breathing, and unforgettable cultural experience.
Erfoud Date Festival
For three days in October (or November, depending on the harvest) this festival celebrates the date harvest in Erfoud, a Saharan Desert oasis town. Local farmers, producers, and visitors gather to honor and enjoy this magnificent fruit. There are traditional music and dancing, camel races, and the crowning of the Date Queen. You will have the chance to sample dozens of different varieties of Moroccan dates from the region. Date related products are also available to sample and purchase like condiments, jams, pastes, and cookies. Come experience the local cultural heritage of the region that has one million date palm trees and eat lots of dates!
International Nomad Festival
This free, open-air festival takes place in March to celebrate cultural diversity and honor the heritage of the regional nomadic tribes. Events take place in the small town of M’Hamid el Ghizlane, historically known as a refuge for nomadic peoples. Local, national, and international artists, musicians, poets, dancers, and storytellers convene here and there are several vendors selling handmade arts and crafts. Traditional Moroccan music and music from other countries can be heard around town during the festival. There are also workshops and seminars related to the nomadic lifestyle, agriculture, education, the environment, and more.
Morocco has numerous festivals that no matter when you decide to visit, you’re bound to experience at least one of these unique, cultural events. Come explore, experience, and discover a more intimate side of Morocco.
For current information including dates and times of festivals and lodging, it’s best to directly contact the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism at https://mtataes.gov.ma/