Festivals in Morocco have two main raisons d’être: traditional culture and religion. And that gives, in many cases, the birth of festivals and mousses, as we will see in the following lines: local resources are celebrated, arts and popular traditions are consecrated, homage is paid to saints… Any occasion is good to organize a big celebration. You can enjoy dances, songs, traditional costumes and participate in processions and typical tastings. These events often depend on local conditions (harvests) or the lunar calendar. It is therefore impossible to give exact dates in advance.
Traditional Moroccan Festivals
The festivals are festivals of Morocco of relatively recent establishment and that allow to show and perpetuate some manifestations of its culture. Rhythms, dances and songs, and multiple aspects of a secular oral tradition, marked by their originality and diversity, impregnated by the popular arts.
Moroccan culture is a mixture of choreography, melodies and rhythms of yesterday and today. Echoes of a collective memory where men recognize themselves and react with the expression of the body, voice and sound, most of the time to the rhythm of everyday life. Based on myths and a certain vision of the world, rhythm here is more than a sign of life: it is the bearer of cultural messages. Thus, generations succeed one another and rhythms remain eternal.
Every Moroccan festival has a different theme. Here are the main ones.
Asilah Culture Festival (August)
In This festival, Morocco shows its most welcoming and reflective side, opening wide the door to intellectuals from all over the world. It takes place in this northern Moroccan town, bringing together thinkers, academic researchers, painters, philosophers, and a long etcetera, debating on the coexistence of nations, organizing artistic expression workshops, holding conferences, and much more.
Agadir Folk Music Festival (July)
As this festival will show you, Morocco is a place rich in popular music. The city of Agadir hosts this meeting of popular and nomadic music, constituting an authentic appointment that puts in value the different traditions in the form of song and thus showing, in only one festival, the deepest and plural Morocco. Ahwash from the mountain villages, Rways or itinerant poet musicians from the Souss and the Atlas, Lâabate or singers from Taroudant, Gnawa or nomadic musicians from the south of Morocco… And the list goes on.
The result is a rich mix of music, poetry, society, and spirituality. To better appreciate it, conferences are held as well as film screenings related to the themes developed in the festival. And for the youngest, there are introductory workshops.
At the crossroads of all these influences, Agadir presents itself as the Village of the Festival, because it is the place of convergence of all these manifestations. And for this, it sets up a nomadic camp on the ocean shore, facing a great stage: that of the theater of concerts and shows.
Marrakech Folk Arts Festival: (in June)
Every year in June, the city of Marrakech vibrates to the rhythm of its folk festival, which takes place in an imperial framework: the El Badii Palace, a sumptuous building which is covered with a carpet and traditional decorations to The Thousand and one night. Musicians, singers, dancers, and many other professionals of the world of art and the popular tradition in Morocco are welcomed there. And all this without forgetting the thousands of spectators ready to savor every moment. In this festival, Morocco shows all its cultural diversity: the ritual dances of the Atlas, those of Saharan origins such as Dekkah and Guedra, or the ritual dances of the Gnaouas, with mystical ceremonies inherited from the animist cults of black Africa.
Essaouira Gnaoua Music Festival (June)
This event aims to bring together the best groups of Gnaoua music, as well as a multitude of American and European jazz groups. This show was held for the first time in 1960 and its success was such that it immediately made a place among the great festivals of Morocco and among the great world shows.
Fes Festival of Sacred Music of the World (May/June)
Fes, the spiritual capital of the country, organizes this festival every year with the intention of universalizing this type of music and contributing to the dialogue and reconciliation of different peoples and religions. It was born in 1994 and has achieved a great international repercussion.
Jazz Festival of the Oudayas of Rabat (October)
This is an original event since with this festival, Morocco seeks to make a place for itself in fusion music: its main objective is to open a dialogue between European or modern jazz and the jazz of Moroccan musicians, whose syncopated music is deeply rooted in the millenary traditions of the Maghreb.
Marrakech International Film Festival (September)
Born in 2000, this solemn event has a very positive economic and touristic impact. But it has also succeeded in consolidating in this Moroccan city a platform for meetings, exchanges, and dialogue between all those who make and love the seventh art. The festival is organized by the Foundation of the International Film Festival of Marrakech and is chaired by HRH Prince Moulay Rachid.
Religious festivals of Morocco: Moussems
Beyond the above festivals in Morocco which, as we have seen, are linked to culture, there are many other celebrations in the country related to religion or the supernatural world. Of course, we leave aside Ramadan, which is not a festive celebration per se, but we delve into other local festivities of great color and originality. They are known as Moussems and take place throughout the country.
Moussem Moulay Idriss of Fez (September)
This event is the homage of the whole city to its Patron Saint and represents one of the most important moussem of the country. Collections are made to cover the expenses of the festivities and the offerings. The saint is carried up to the mausoleum, dressed in silk embroidered with gold, which is the annual tribute of the weavers’ guild. Sellers, tanners, brass workers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, and other trades offer their tributes and huge colored and decorated candles for the illumination of the sanctuary. And come the big day, there is the exhibition of offerings that begins in the morning and continues until sunset.
Moussem Moulay Idriss Zarhoun, in Meknès (end of summer)
It is the biggest celebration organized by this small city, which dominates the valley of Oued Khoumane. It is a great feast in Morocco, as it hosts the mausoleum of the founder of the first Arab dynasty to reign in the country: the Idrissides. Every year, at the end of summer, the different guilds of the medina come one after the other to pay homage to their saint, bringing numerous offerings and sacrifices accompanied by songs and folk music, such as Aissaouas, Hmadcha, and Hal Touat.
Moussem Moulay Abdellah, in El Jadida (August)
The city of Moulay Abdellah is located 10 km west of El Jadida. And it is there that is celebrated every year this grandiose moussem that gathers thousands of people coming from all over the kingdom. This festival, in Morocco, has achieved enormous fame thanks to its spectacular riots. It commemorates the place where the ascetic Moulay Abdellah, coming from Medina (Saudi Arabia), stopped by a fountain on his way to the sunset, leading to the subsequent construction of the mosque.
Moussem of Imilchil (September)
The moussem of Imilchil is not only one of the most famous festivals in Morocco but is already known internationally, becoming almost a major tourist pilgrimage. Imilchil is a village in the High Atlas Mountains at an altitude of 2600 meters, where it is customary for the girls of the region to get married on the day of the moussem.
Once upon a time, the venerated Sidi Ahmed Oulmghani blessed the unions so that, according to the legend, they would always live in joy and happiness. Today, this moussem attracts about 30,000 people, who gather under the tents for three days with their herds, their horses and their dromedaries. Meanwhile, the girls show off their beauty and adorn themselves with their best jewelry, dancing for long hours before their destiny takes them to their new home.
Moussem Tantan of Guelmim, in Asrir (June)
A cultural and touristic event, especially after being declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity, this moussem brings together some thirty nomadic desert tribes.
One of its great attractions is the dance of Guedra, Especially if it is witnessed from one of the tents in the area.
Moussem of the Roses, in Kelaa des M’ Gouna (May)
The Moussem of the Roses, in Kelaa des M’ Gouna, is one of the most fascinating festivals in Morocco, with numerous demonstrations of folklore, handicraft exhibitions, or the election of ‘Miss Rose’, who gives a nice ride on camelback. And finally: an extraordinary excursion in the Valley of the Roses. All this to commemorate the harvest of the local rosebushes.
Moussem of Cherries, in Sefrou (June)
This Moussem is a Moroccan festival in which joy and celebration last three days and in which there are numerous sports competitions. A riot, a torchlight parade, attractions, and the election of the ‘Miss Cherry’, after having attended the parade of her retinue.
Like the previous Moussem, it is an Intangible Heritage of Humanity and commemorates the harvest.
Moussem of the dates of Erfoud (October)
Erfoud, a city of colonial foundation, has as one of its great attractions its own situation. Next to the Oued Ziz river, where about a million palm trees grow. For this reason, this event is held annually, one of the many festivals in Morocco dedicated to the harvest. In it, all the inhabitants of the region participate in families or among friends in the harvest of dates. The range of products is very wide, predominantly Bouzekri, Boufegous, Majhoul, and Bouslikhan, among others.
Moroccan holidays in the private sphere
Religious Moroccan holidays
In addition to all the Moroccan holidays that we have related and that have a public and communitarian character, there are many other important dates in the life of a Moroccan. They are private celebrations to commemorate the most important moments of his life or that of his relatives.
There is no doubt that every nation has its own occasions to celebrate. To express its happiness, and its desire to preserve its traditions. And Moroccan society also celebrates many events to carry out that purpose. All celebrations have a symbolic element where one can appreciate the perfect fusion between Islamic and Amazigh traditions.
Moroccan families celebrate the life of their sons and daughters from their birth to their wedding. First of all, there is the Sabee or Sboa, a celebration in Morocco and throughout,
the Muslim world that takes place seven days after the birth of the baby. In it, the father slits the throat of a lamb if the baby is a girl and two if it is a boy, then gives the baby a name. The parents then invite all their friends and neighbors to share in the happiness of naming this new member of the family.
This is followed by l’khtana, which is the circumcision of the son. In the past, this operation used to be performed by a person called l’hajjam, but nowadays the child is usually taken to a doctor to avoid any danger or complications. After the operation, the parents organize a big party to celebrate this important event.
We also have Syam l’Ouel, which means “first day of fasting”. When the parents prepare a special meal for their son or daughter, consisting of honey, dried fruits, cakes, etc. They dress their son or daughter as if he or she were a bride or groom, dressed in their traditional clothes.
At this time, a photographer is always present to take some snapshots to be kept as a souvenir of this special day when the child was prepared to practice this important Islamic pillar.
In addition to these private days, Moroccan society celebrates many other special days, such as Aid Al Adha or Aid L’Kbir, considered the most important event by all Muslims, during which people come in the morning for a special prayer organized on that day. They then return to their homes to slaughter a lamb, after which they prepare boulfaf with the animal’s liver and all family members eat together. In the evening, the families exchange visits at each other’s homes.
Last but not least, one of Morocco’s main holidays: Achoura day, which is celebrated one month after Aid Al Adha, when mothers prepare couscous with seven vegetables and children practice some traditions, such as Bab Aichor. Likewise, parents buy some games and toys for the little ones and women. Also buy some traditional musical instruments, such as the ta’arija or the bandir. In this special event, one can appreciate the mixture between the religious and the cultural or traditional.
So Morocco’s festivities are a perfect opportunity for its citizens to reconcile with each other and to exchange visits. They are also ideal occasions to inculcate their own popular culture. Excellent mix of different cultures resulting in a great variety and richness of traditions.
about Moroccan festivals
Festivals organized by the Ministry of Culture:
Imilchi Festival of Esponsales:
Cultural Festival of Asilah:
Festival of the Sacred Musics of the World of Fez:
Festival of Music Gnaoua d’ Essaouira.
Festival méditérrannéen of Tétouan.