Information about annual festivals and events in Morocco are listed below. Find out what festivals and events are taking place in Morocco so you can plan your triparound them. Major festivals include: The Popular Arts Festival in Marrakech; The Gnawa Music Festival in Essaouira, the World Sacred Music Festival in Fes; Eid after Ramadan and more.
1. Marathon des Sables (The Sand Marathon)
The Sand Marathon covers 151 miles and is run over 6 days; it’s a grueling race. Set in the Moroccan desert, around 600 competitors from 30 countries take part every year. Competitors carry all their equipment themselves and cook their own meals. Most competitors run for charity.
Western Sahara Desert, Morocco. Eugene Reshetov
2. The Rose Festival
In the Dades Valley in Morocco a small oasis town Kelaa-des-Mgouna is home to Morocco’s largest rose water distillery plant. The entire town is fragrant and the spectacular harvest in May is celebrated with song and dance.
Roses Valley, Morocco. Getty Images/Louis-Laurent Grandadam
3. Fes Festival of World Sacred Music, Morocco
This wonderful spiritual festival, held annually in Fes, allows you to bump into whirling dervishes from Iran as well as mystics, chanters and dancers from all around the world. A festival celebrating the local culture of Fes is held concurrently. Both festivals allow visitors a wonderful insight into traditional life in the old walled city. Sip some mint tea, enjoy sufi chanting and of course all that delicious Moroccan food.
Medina at Night, Fes. Getty Images/Robert Harding
4. Essaouira Gnawa and World Music Festival
A music festival based on the traditions of Gnawa music has grown to include musicians from all over the world. This successful annual festival has been around for a decade and venues are dotted all around the picturesque town ofEssaouira. Here’s a tour if you would like to join in the fun as a group. Gnawa music is a combination of acrobatic dancing as well as music. Its origins lie in a unique mixture of Berber, African and Arabic songs, religious rites and dance.
Essaouira. Getty Images/Martin Child
5. Marrakech Popular Arts Festival
Marrakech Popular Arts Festival attracts folk singers, dancers, fortune-tellers, acting troupes, snake charmers, fire-swallowers and more, from all over Morocco. Since 2000 the festival has also attracted many artists and entertainers from Europe and Asia. The main events take place in the ruins of the 16 century Badi Palace and the Djemma el Fna (main town square). Not to be missed, outside the city walls at night, is the Fantasia. A horse-riding spectacle that includes hundreds of charging horsemen (and women) wearing traditional clothing.
6. Imichil Marriage Festival
The Imilchil Marriage Feast is a Berber marriage festival where up to forty couples tie the knot. It takes place in Imilchil in the Middle-High Atlas Mountains near Marrakech. The festival is a great way to experience Berber culture including music and dance.
High Atlas Mountains. Getty Images/Staff
7. Ramadan and Eid Festival
Ramadan refers to the 9th month in the Muslim calendar. All Muslims are expected to fast during the day for the entire lunar month. During the month of Ramadan, Moroccans will abstain from food, drink, and other physical needs during the daylight hours. As a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God, and practice self-sacrifice, Ramadan is much more than just not eating and drinking.
Fasting during Ramadan is strictly adhered to in Morocco. The end of Ramadan is marked by the festival ofEid and celebrations last for several days.
Ramadan, Moroccan Man Praying. Getty Images
8. Erfoud Date Festival
More than a million date palms are grown in the Erfoud region and after harvest, the party really starts. Local tribesmen come together for a 3 day festival dedicated to the sticky and delicious date. Berber tents play host to traditional dancing, food and music. There’s also a dromedary race, which shouldn’t be missed.
Dates. Getty Images/George Doyle
9. Marrakech International Film Festival
The always lively central Place Djemaa el-Fna sets the stage for Marrakech’s International Film Festival. The city’s central square, is transformed into an open-air cinema. Festival visitors in the past have included Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Susan Sarandon, David Lynch and many others.
10. Eid ul-Adha
Eid ul-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) is an important Muslim festival celebrated throughout North Africaand in Muslim communities elsewhere on the continent. During the celebration, Muslims remember Ibrahim’s (Abraham) trials, who was asked by Allah to sacrfice his only son. To commemorate this show of faith by
Ibrahim, Muslims themselves slaughter an animal, usually a sheep or goat. The meat from the sacrifice of Eid al-Adha is mostly given away to others. Eid ul-Adha is celebrated 70 days after the end of Ramadam and the day after the completion of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).
11. New Year’s Eve and Yennayer
New Year’s eve on the 31st December is usually marked by some celebration, and tourist hotels and restaurants will cetainly put on a special evening, January 1st is a public holiday in Morocco. Spening the night in the desert is very popular among travelers and a great way to welcome the new year.
In some parts of Morocco, traditional New Year’s Eve is actually celebrated around 12 – 15 January. The Amazigh (Berber) people will mark their own New Year, Yennayer, for the 2,960th time (in 2009/10) in accordance with the Julian calendar.