Festival El Capitaino – Part 1

Summer time in Morocco is furiously hot, fantastically beautiful and frantically busy. Finding out what is going on during your stay is growing increasingly hard, particularly as many celebrations adjust each year with the changing harvests and traditional “moussems” seem to be dying out while bigger more international events prosper. What follows is a short guide to this summer’s “moussems” and festivals, ensuring that you have the inside knowledge that prevents you from missing out.

The International Film Festival in Marrakech takes place in November. This celebration of international film has drawn in more than a fair share of stars in the past, including famous directors Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and David Lynch, as well as actress Susan Sarandon and actor/heartthrob Colin Farrell. The celebrations take place over the stunning Place Djemaa el-Fna – Marrakech’s central square – which is transformed into a massive open air cinema. Winners in the past include Veiko Ounpuu’s love story “Sugisball” and Isao Yukisada’s “Go”.

Another unique cultural experience is the Gnaoua and World Music Festival which takes place in Essaouira between the 26th and 28th of June. All the shows are free of charge and consist of both international and local musicians. The Gnaoua festival is a perfect opportunity to capture some of the country’s best traditional musicians, dancers and raconteurs. Gnawa music is perhaps the best music to epitomise the Moroccan style, uniting African, Berber and Arab songs as well as acrobatics. Songs can last for over an hour and are said to have a healing powers. Like Reggae, Gnawa is much more accessible than a lot of Non-Western music and much of our Urban Trance is considered derivative of these percussion-led sound-scapes.

For athletes and sport enthusiasts, Morocco annually holds one of the most gruelling endurance marathons in the world. The Marathon Des Sables is a six day, 151 mile race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco. Sandstorms and flesh-melting heat are just two enemies competitors will face during the competition. Find out how you can compete to represent your country here.

The Montreux Jazz Festival in Marrakech is a famous annual celebration of World Music which takes place in July. The Festival began as a Swiss celebration of Jazz and has transformed into a celebration of all World Music, having gained a worldwide status through memorable contributions from artists such as Bo Diddely, Chuck Berry, Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King and Herbie Hancock. The Moroccan version, although more underground, showcases elements of this classic event, including workshops, acoustic concerts and the Montreux Jazz Club. La Ménara and the Bahia Palace are the main venues, both of which are majestic and beautiful.

Morocco is a beautiful place to stay, although extremely hot in the summer with daytime temperatures often soaring to over 40 degrees centigrade. It is advised that all water is bottled and staying in a slightly more expensive hotel in Marrakech will ensure your stay is luxurious while being in an environment that is safe. Staying in the square, where you can easily get to most of the attractions the city has to offer by foot is recommended. Maison mk is one of the more affordable yet extremely opulent luxury riads Marrakech has to offer. Particularly for honeymooners, the riad’s situation within the square provides a romantic setting along with in-house spas and lavish roof terraces.