The lively and energetic streets of Marrakech, Morocco, become even livelier during the annual Marrakech Popular Arts Festival. This multi-day festival features artists, dancers, singers, theatre troupes, fortune tellers and snake charmers from all over Morocco as well as Europe, Asia and beyond. Held annually in July, the Arts Festival is one of the most celebrated and popular events in Morocco.
Festival performances take place in venues scattered throughout Marrakech. Most of the major events take place around the grounds of El Badi Palace. The grounds of El Badi provide a historic backdrop for the festival and visitors will be offered a glimpse of its former grandeur. Red walls and an expansive courtyard are all that remains from the once great palace that took over 25 years to construct. Sadly Moulay Ismaï destroyed the palace in the late 1600s to decorate his own palace in Meknes and most of what is left of El Badi is in ruins.
Many of the events also take place in Marrakech’s main square, Place Djemaa el Fna. The square is home to a dizzying array of cafes, food stalls, shops and vendors, and it can take days to get your bearings and see it all. The Djemaa el Fna is also home to a cast of entertainers and you can expect to see storytellers, magicians and snake charmers on any given day, not just during the festival.
Music and dance are vital parts of the Moroccan life and you will surely enjoy the unique mix of modern entertainment and traditional arts characteristic of the festival. The festival brings together all parts of Morocco so you will see performances from ancient folk dancers and traditional Berber musicians as well as belly dancers, fusion bands and pop musicians. You won’t want to miss the “Fantasia” held nightly just outside the city walls. This traditional choreographed horse performance involves groups of charging horseman dressed in traditional clothing.
Visiting Marrakech during the Popular Arts Festival will enhance your experience by giving you the opportunity to visit with the locals and see Morocco at its cultural finest. If you need a break from the festivities, seek solace in the peaceful Majorelle Gardens or relax under an orchard of palms and olive trees in the Menara Gardens before returning to this vibrant celebration of Moroccan culture.
Written by Amiee Maxwell.
Photo by Bill Liao.