Festival El Capitaino – Part 2

As well as a sophisticated list of world famous festivals – Morocco’s “moussems” are lesser known, more traditional celebrations which, once found, can be extremely enjoyable events to attend. At first these mass gatherings were religious celebrations honouring Marabouts – men of faith to whom god has given special powers. Nowadays the religious connotations are far more subtle and many of the events have become more general street parties which celebrate and coincide with harvest cycles.

The Imilchil wedding festival takes place in Imilchil, which is middle-high in the Altas Mountains, after harvest (this years festival takes place on the 25th-27th of August) where over 40 couples meet up to tie the knot. The festival pays tribute to two young lovers who fell in love, but were not allowed to be together due to their different tribal backgrounds. The legend has it that ‘Isli’ and ‘Tislit’ cried a whole lake of tears each, which they then drowned in. It is interesting here to note that in the Berber language the “T” at the start and end of a word signifies the feminine version, so “Tislit” is the perfect feminine of “Isli”. The sad story continues that even after their death, these two lovers have been forbidden to elope and the picturesque mountains which separate the two lakes stands as a symbol of their separation. The Imilchil wedding festival celebrates the freedom that modern Moroccans now have to marry whomever they choose and consists of beautiful ceremonies as well as street parties and traditional Moroccan dancing.

The Rose festival takes place annually in May. Kelaa-des-m’gouna has 4,200km of rose hedges and is a prime setting for the party as well as the additional Souk which visits the town to offer ‘Differ’ banquets and quality rose water. This traditional moussem celebrates that year’s rose crops and looks forward to the following year. Roughly 3,000 rose petals are needed to make one single litre of rose water, so don’t be surprised if it is fairly expensive! The setting is wonderful and the atmosphere is welcoming with flower-decked floats, camel rides and the annual appointment of Miss Rose!

Lastly, the Tissa horse festival is yet another moussem delight that Morocco has to offer. Described as a “vision of medieval splendour” Tissa is located just away from the more tourist friendly Fez and holds the horse festival in honour of Sidi Muhammad Ben Lahcen – a 15th century man of god. It is here in October, that renowned horse breeders compete in what is known as a Fantasia – an equine test of speed, endurance, grace, discipline and maneuverability. The Tissa horse festival, along with the “Festival of Fantasia” in Meknes a month prior, is a spectacle to be held and certainly an event worthy of visiting for anyone passing during this time of year.

With Morocco offering some of the world’s best treasures within the Souks of Marrekech along with unbelievable experiences all cushioned by a stunning backdrop, it is important that you get to see everything you can while you are there. The aforementioned moussems, despite little international press in many cases, often contain the most worthwhile experiences. Visiting Morocco truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and making the most of your time is key to the trip fulfilling its potential.