Morocco & Andalusia: Festivals

Take me to the Souq
: Souqs are weekly markets* held outdoors throughout the country on various days of the week. As they attract people from all, sometimes remote villages in the vicinity, they are much more than a market: a chance to see friends and distant family, get a haircut or a tooth pulled out, have a letter read and answer written by the scribe, seek the advice of a town official, get a cooked meal, enjoy entertainment, etc. Within the market a generally tumultuous atmosphere, as criers announce the best deals and shoppers mingle in search of produce, clothing, livestock, kitchen utensils, tools, yarn, spices, satellite dishes and just about anything else you can imagine.

*(The commercial areas of larger cities, open daily, are also called souqs.)

On any trip around the country a visitor is bound to pass a souq, some tiny in the countryside, others immense outside larger towns. Some of the largest, most colorful:

— Tinghir
Tuesdays — Azrou, Khemisset, Rissani
Wednesdays — Boumalne du Dades, Zagora
Thursdays — Chefchaouen, M’rirt, Sefrou, Tiznit
Saturdays — Asni
Sundays — Khenifra, Ouarzazate

Festivals: People have been gathering once a year sometimes for centuries near the tombs of major sage men, Moslem and Jewish, initially as a form of pilgrimage, though with time huge outdoor markets evolved around the pilgrimage and local folklore may be seen. These are called moussems. Among the major ones are the Moussem of Imilchil, deep in the High Atlas, notable for its betrothal rites of the local Aït Hadiddou Berbers (late September); the Moussem of Sidi ben Nasser in Tamegroute (early September); and the moussem of the Gnawa sect in Essaouira, which has became a world music festival in recent years (see below). Beyond those, there are a number of annual music, art and folklore festivals, a few that go back decades, though in the last 20 years every major city appears to want to have festivals of their own. Among the most worthwhile (by month):

INTERNATIONAL NOMADS FESTIVAL (Saharan culture & folklore, M’hamid, early March)
ROSE HARVEST FESTIVAL (folklore, market, parades, El Kalaa Mgouna, mid-May)
FES FESTIVAL OF WORLD SACRED MUSIC (world music, Fes, 1st week of June)
TANJAZZ (international jazz, Tangier, mid-June)
GNAWA & WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL (world music, Essaouira, last week of June)
TIMITAR FESTIVAL (Berber music, culture & arts, Agadir, early July)
MARRAKECH FESTIVAL OF POPULAR ARTS (folklore, Marrakech, 3rd week of July)
ASILAH FESTIVAL (international music, arts, authors, Asilah, 1st week of August)
NATIONAL FESTIVAL OF FANTASIA (horsemanship, Meknes, mid-September)
DATE HARVEST FESTIVAL (folklore, camel races, market, Arfoud, mid-October)
FESTIVAL OF CULINARY ARTS (Fes, last weekend of October)
FES JAZZ FESTIVAL (Fes, mid-November)
INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL OF MARRAKECH (films & stars, Marrakech, early December)

A Moroccan gazetteer: Tangier | Rabat & Casablanca | Andalusia | Meknes & Volubilis | Fes | Marrakech | The High Atlas | The Middle Atlas | Taroudant & the Anti Atlas | On the Sahara's Edge | The Atlantic Coast | Jewish Heritage | Architecture | Festivals

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