1.Festival des Roses in Kelâat M’Gouna (May)
I’ve been planning on visiting the Festival des Roses for years and hoping to finally go in May 2020. It is actually one of the most popular festivals in Morocco. During this period the locals of Kelâat M’gouna (town located in Dades Valley) celebrate the harvest of roses. In this small town you can find anything made with roses – such as perfumes, creams, medicines and even jams. Each year, more than 20.000 people attend the festival which takes place for three days. The streets are then covered with a blanket of roses for shows and concerts of Berber groups. You can of course also shop in the souks or even learn how rose water is made. On the last day of the festival, one of the most beautiful women in town will be elected as the Miss Roses of that particular year. Will I see you there next year?
2. Almond Blossom Festival in Tafraoute (February)
I actually never knew about the Almond Blossom Festival until I did some research. This annual festival takes place in Tafraoute, a city in the South-West of Morocco in the anti-Atlas mountains, and is usually held in the second week of February when the trees are at their blossoming peak. Tafraoute is the largest producer of almonds in Morocco. Traditionally, the festival was celebrated each year by the village during harvest time as a way to celebrate the prosperity and new harvest. During the festival you can enjoy traditional folklore, song and dance. The coolest thing is that it is actually celebrated in the middle of the old Roman ruins, surrounded by almond trees, and at night the ruins are lit up. How magical is that?
3. Marriage Festival in Imilchil (September)
The town of Imilchil is known for its annual Marriage Festival, officially known as Betrothal Festival – the Souk Aam or Agdoud N’Oulmghenni. The legend goes that two young people from different tribes fell in love, but were forbidden to see each other by their families. The grief led them to cry themselves to death. The families decided to establish a day on the anniversary of the lovers’ death – when members of local tribes could marry each other, and so the Imilchil Marriage Festival was born. In reality, the region is a large scattering of tiny villages, and when young person needs to find a partner, they can’t simply go and look for one, so the festival allows for fathers to show their daughters and find husbands for them. When a woman accepts a man’s proposal to marry, she says “You have captured my liver” (Tq massa n uchemt). Up to 40 couples take their vows on the same day. The festival is rich with music, dancing, feasts, and colorful clothing. The celebrations attracts many tourists to the area, and though contributing to local economy, there are fears that the rituals can be affected by the foreigners.
4. Horse Festival in Tissa (October)
Each year, somehwere in October, the Tissa Horse Festival is held. The festival attracts hundreds of horse breeders and owners who come to show off their beautifully groomed horses. These horses are some of the finest of their breeds and range from Arab-Berbers to Arab stallions to Barbary mares. The main action happens in a rectangular arena that is enclosed by tents, each flying the Moroccan national flag. The tension escalates as the crowds gather to watch the horsemen prepare to test their cavalry skills. The riders charge simultaneously with thundering hooves, kicking up a great cloud of dust, suddenly pulling up and shooting a volley of gunfire from ancient rifles so that the air grows thick with the smell of cordite. The teams are judged on the fitness of the horses and the riders’ costumes, as well as speed and coordination. Prize money is awarded and the show comes to an end with a huge parade. When I was younger we would go to a Fantasia Festival in Summer to watch the horses, and it’s truly a must to experience!
5. Gnaoua and World Music Festival in Essaouira (June)
The Gnaoua World Music Festival is a music festival held annually in Essaouira. The festival provides a platform for a meeting point of music and dialogue between foreign artists and the mystical Gnaoua musicians. In this melting-pot of musical fusion, the Gnaoua masters invite players of jazz, pop, rock and contemporary world music to explore new avenues. The festivals see up to 500,000 visitors every year over four days; will you be one of them?