Festivals in Fez, Essaouira, and Sefrou

Tis the season for festivity in Morocco as summer approaches and travelers search for exotic locales with something special to offer. Artists from all over the musical spectrum are also heading to Morocco to exhibit their abilities in music festivals, while other towns offer their own venue to celebrate the season.

The most prominent festival in all of Morocco is an annual celebration in Fez known as the Fez Sacred Music Festival. Sacred music doesn’t mean that the music performed is necessarily religious. It does mean, however, that the music performed will lift viewers’ spirits as musicians display a variety of styles. Local Moroccan music is also on center stage as Sufi chants and gypsy groups from the south of Spain bring their own melodic weavings.

During the festival, musicians will often partner with others on stage in hopes of finding a common ground on which to perform. Bands from all over Africa, from Europe, including France, England, and Italy all seek a common thread. They search for music that goes beyond representing Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, or Buddhism, and find something that is uplifting, bringing unity and harmony to those involved. Some past artists have included the gospel choirs from Harlem and whirling devishes from Iran, among others. For those who cannot pay the hefty ticket price, concerts are given for free at the Bab Boujloud Square.

Another music festival that normally occurs just after the Fez Sacred Music Festival is the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival, which happens in one of Morocco’s most favorite beach getaways. The festival will celebrate its 9th anniversary this year and is projected to attract tens of thousands of tourists. The concert has been recognized as an international Woodstock in its own right. The festival this year starts on June 19 and lasts five days. The festival has brought the small coastal town new international fame and a guaranteed way to support itself year in and out.

In Essaouira, you can check out several of the guesthouses or riads that have been opened over the years by individuals hoping to capture the wonder and magic of the village in their finely decorated hotels. If you’d like to come during the festival, you’d better get a room at least three to six months in advance. One of the highlights in between musical gigs is the camel race along the beach.

Finally, another festival that occurs in June each year happens in the small Middle Atlas town of Sefrou. The yearly event marks the full blossoming of the cherry trees that line the fields around town. While the exact dates are hard to figure due to the seasonal variables, most often it occurs in the first week of June, alongside the festival in Fez. Tourists now rarely visit Sefrou, which was once a financial center of Meknes and Fez. For those willing to take the small journey to the town, the Cooperative Artisanal is said to be one of the best places to get great bargains on area handicrafts, including carpets and cedar products.