Morocco’s Achoura Festival

Morocco’s Achoura Festival

The Ashura Festival in Morocco (often spelled: “achoura”) is truly a festival for kids… and kids at heart! Kids all get new toys, as well as the staple Darbuka (a goblet drum) and Berrada (a clay piggy bank). Kids go from playing music and eating healthy treats, like fakia, to playing with water. 

But there is so much more to the Ashura Festival in Morocco than just drums and toys! Ashura is a perfect example of the Judaeo-Islamic tradition in Morocco, deeply rooted in values of tolerance and coexistence.


Listen to This! Moroccan Music You Can Download

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For nearly every traveller to Morocco, one of the biggest highlights is listening to live Moroccan music. From the performers jamming in Marrakesh’s famous square, Jemma el-Fnaa every night, to the Gnawa beats pulsing in the desert… one thing is for certain, Moroccan music will set beat to your time in Morocco. But what if you’re stuck at home or on a plane? What is the best Moroccan music you can download? (more…)

Raissouni Palace in Asilah, Morocco

asilah moroccoIn the ancient trading town of Asilah, Raissouni Palace is a towering symbol for the area’s renaissance. Until about 30 years ago, Asilah crumbled under centuries of neglect. Fortunately, hometown hero Mohammed Benaissa inspired others to take an interest in the community’s beauty and heritage, sparking a flood of rehabilitation efforts that have created the cultural capital seen today.

Asilah’s Raissouni Palace serves as an unofficial “palace of culture,” and it is a magnet for all things artistic, creative and historical. Yearly festivals, including a prominent string of events in August, let Raissouni become the town’s centerpiece.

Located in the northwest corner of Morocco, Asilah has strong Spanish and Portuguese influences, with a refined Mediterranean feel. Beaches (including the popular Paradise Beach) and pleasant city streets would probably attract appreciative fans even without the community’s impressive cultural aims. The 15th-century Portuguese ramparts surrounding the town have been painstakingly restored, and the town’s natural harbor is far more placid than the region’s legacy of piracy might have predicted. Conservation projects from the 1980s onward have pulled together a town with historical charm and some of the most festive cultural celebrations in the Muslim world. (more…)

Day Trips from Ouarzazate, Morocco

camel tour sahara desertOuarzazate often considered the last big outpost before the Sahara Desert. Filmmakers and crews alike have flocked here in recent years to film blockbusters such as Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Body of Lies, The Mummy, Babel, Spy Game and many other movies in and around this desert city. If visiting this locale is on your to-do list during any Morocco holidays you might plan, don’t confine yourself to the city alone. There are many day trips from Ouarzazate that are worth the time.


This city is located 50 kilometers from the Algerian border and about 300 kilometers from Ouarzazate. While this is a bit of a drive, this small city is located near the famous sand dunes of Erg Chebbi and Erg Chigaga. Erg Chebbi reaches 150 meters tall and spans 22 kilometers from north to south and 5-10 kilometers east to west. Many camel treks ranging from a few hours to several days depart from this city. If you’re interested in “seeing” the Sahara, but perhaps not for more than a few hours, visiting Merzouga is a great way to do so. (more…)

Kalaat M’gouna, Morocco: A Town of Roses

morocco rosesThose who are romantics at heart are likely to swoon at the opportunity to visit Kalaat M’gouna, especially in the spring. This city in the Dades Valley is famous for one thing: roses. Kalaat M’gouna means Valley of the Roses and the city itself is named after the nearby Mount Mgoun.

In the late spring months, the city is literally covered in roses. A pink carpet as far as the eye can see dots the otherwise brown landscape. It is believed that pilgrims who arrived in Morocco from Saudi Arabia brought rosa damascena, the variety of roses that are grown in this region, with them in the 10th century, and they continue to play a part in the city’s culture today. (more…)

Asilah Arts Festival

morocco tilesLike most towns in Morocco, Asilah has a walled medina. But in Asilah, the walls are painted with colorful, elaborate murals. For the last thirty two years, the Asilah Arts Festival has rehabilitated and promoted the city of Asilah by fostering artists from around the world.

Asilah is a resort town on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, only fifty kilometers from Tangier. For the first two weeks in August, the town explodes with culture while it hosts the Arts Festival. Artists use the festival as a way to exhibit their work for the public and exchange ideas with other creative individuals. Every year a group of painters collaborate and design a wall mural at the Medina. Visitors are invited to watch the work as it progresses.

Beyond paintings, the Asilah Arts Festival works to encourage cultural dialogue, exchange ideas and promote peace. Guests and speakers include politicians, journalists and writers who exchange ideas and inspire one another to create a global cultural landscape. (more…)

Marrakesh Popular Arts Festival

Morocco snake charmerMany know Marrakech as a bustling cultural hub, rich with historical sites, museums and colorful souks. Locals and visitors alike are especially drawn to Place Djemaa el Fna, the city’s main square, which showcases a nightly maze of dinner stalls, storytellers, musicians, artists and more. The reputation makes Marrakech a natural home to the Popular Arts Festival, taking place July 10-18 this year.

Thousands of Moroccans and international visitors flock to the festival each year to admire the artistic feats of performers from throughout Morocco and around the world (particularly Europe and Asia). Attending the range of Moroccan performances will give you a taste of the nation’s ancient past as well as its modern pop culture. Look for featured performances by ancient folk dancers, traditional Berber musicians, and fusion and pop bands. Other talents on display include fire swallowers, storytelling, snake charming and acrobatics. The nightly “Fantasia” just outside of town also draws crowds with groups of men and women in traditional clothing, presenting a choreographed performance on horseback. (more…)

Gnaoua Festival D’Essaouira: June 20-24, 2012

Gnauoua Music Festival MoroccoFor the past 15 years Essaouira has been home to the Gnaoua World Music Festival. Every summer in June, for four days, the Gnaoua Festival welcomes famous musicians to participate, share their musical ideas and create one of the most elaborate concerts in the world. Starting in 1998, the concerts have regularly drawn crowds of more than 200,000 people. The festival provides not only a platform for musical exchange but a meeting point for open-minded dialogue between foreign artists and the transcendental Gnaoua musicians. It’s a place where Gnaoua music meets the rest of the world and exchanges ideas. This colorful patchwork of musical fusion provides a fantastic space for Gnaoua musicians to jam with jazz, pop, hip-hop, rock and contemporary world music masters in the coastal town of Essaouira.

Gnaoua music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African, Berber and Sufi religious songs and music. The musical style can be described as both a spiritual prayer and an important celebration of life. Like most music, much of Gnaoua’s style can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa. Today, its practice is concentrated in Morocco. (more…)

Fez Festival of World Sacred Music 2012

Music Festival Fez MoroccoFor the past 18 years, the city of Fez, Morocco, has put on the Festival of World Sacred Music, dedicated to the traditions of knowledge, art and spirituality of the city. It began as a peace initiative following the first Gulf War but has since become an established part of the world music and art scene. This year’s event runs from June 8-16 at different venues in the city of Fez. The theme is “Re-enchanting the World,” and pays tribute to Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

Acts from around the world converge on Fez along with thousands of attendees there to pay homage to sacred music from around the globe. There is a heavy focus on Sufi music, however, music from all over the globe is represented. This year’s acts hail Hungary, Romania, Central Europe, Lebanon, Tunisia, India, Cuba, Pakistan, Iceland, Iran, Guinea, France, Morocco and the United States. Along with musical acts there are several poetry readings, poetry set to music and dancing troupes. (more…)

Tan Tan Moussem

Morocco musical instrumentStarted in 1963, Tan Tan Moussem is an inter-tribal festival that brings together Saharan peoples. The festival’s main event is camel trading, but there are also wedding celebrations, inter-tribal competitions and lots of music and dancing. The most dramatic aspect of the festival is a fantasia, a reenactment of a traditional Berber attack charge on horseback.

The festival was suspended from 1979 until 2004 due to tension in the Western Sahara, but since its revival by the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism and UNESCO, it has drawn nomadic peoples from Morocco, Mali, Niger and as far away as Saudi Arabia. Festival participants stay in a temporary city of more than 800 tents handmade from goat and camel hair.

Tourist facilities at the festival are limited, although there are a number of budget hotels in Tan Tan proper. The event takes places yearly in late May or early June. It’s best to contact the Moroccan Ministry of Tourism for current event dates and lodging information. In past years, a number of foreign journalists and guests have been invited courtesy of the Moroccan government. (more…)

When to Travel to Morocco

man squatting in alleyway in MoroccoThe best time to travel to Morocco depends on the type of experience you want to have. Planning to visit the desert? Hoping to surf? Is skiing more up your alley?

Despite extreme summer heat, the peak tourist season occurs in July and August. Temperatures in Marrakech and Fez can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit during this time, and a day in the Sahara Desert can climb to an arid 120-degree heat.

Expecting to splash in the water?
With long coastlines along the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, water sports are popular among foreign visitors, national tourists and locals alike. Coastal breezes make temperatures in these areas feel more bearable throughout the summer, making it an ideal time for a holiday spent kayaking, surfing or relaxing on the beach. Think Essaouira, Agadir or Tetouan. (more…)

Tapping Toes at the World Gnaoua Festival

Guitar player World Gnaoua FestivalWhen some visitors travel to Morocco, cultural experiences are an enticing attraction. This is why so many venture to the port city Essaouira to participate in the World Gnaoua Festival. Also known as the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival, the event brings together global music traditions as well as those of the Gnaouas, a blend of African tribal music and Islamic rituals. The music itself incorporates drums and other instruments to bring the performers to a trance-like state.

Essaouira is one of those picturesque seaside places dotted with houses painted in bright white and blue. It is a popular resort location situated just below the Atlas Mountains and attracts travelers who want to indulge in its relaxing environs and take advantage of its excellent beaches. The town is a former Portuguese settlement dating back to the 18th century. While waiting for the music events to begin, you can absorb some of the local history by touring old fortresses or browse the myriad shops that house Essaouira’s many artisans and craftsmen.

Morocco’s Festival of Roses

Pink rosesIn ancient Rome, legend held that the rose first sprung from the blood of Adonis. Crowns of roses were used in weddings, garlands were hung at banquets and petals were strewn beneath the feet of victors. And while we may not be in ancient times, there is still a place that revels in the luxurious beauty of this flower: the Morrocan Festival of Roses.

Held annually in El Kelaâ M’Gouna, approximately 50 miles northeast of Ouarzazate, in the Dadés Valley, Morocco’s Festival of Roses celebrates the season’s rose harvest. Known as the Valley of Roses, the air is scented with the fragrant Centifolia rose, also called the Persian or cabbage rose, and the streets are lined in flowering hedgerows. The Moroccan rose industry is centered here, processing the lush pink blooms into rose oils for perfumes, beauty products, and cooking ingredients. It takes nearly 7,000 pounds of petals to make just 35 ounces of oil, and you can tour the country’s largest rose distillery to see how rosewater and rose attar (essential oil) are made.

Been to Morocco? What To Do On Your Next Trip

Summit of Jebel Toubkal Jbel ToubkalWhen they first think about Morocco travel with an agency, many travelers stick to the imperial cities of Fez, Meknes, Marrakesh and Rabat, spend a few days on a desert trek in the Merzouga dunes and may check out the beaches and nightlife in Casablanca. If you’ve seen the main tourist sights and are ready to do something different on your next trip, consider the following activities.

Hike to the Summit of Jbel Toubkal (4,167m/13,671 feet)

Set in the Atlas mountains, North Africa’s highest peak is a simple and highly scenic two or three-day trek during the summer months. Travel south from Marrakesh via grand taxi to the mountain village of Imlil. At Imlil you can arrange a guide or donkey transport if desired and stay overnight in an auberge or hotel; an alternative option is to stay in the smaller, more picturesque village of Mezzik along the route to Toubkal. (more…)

Marrakech Popular Arts Festival

Fireblower Marrakesh MoroccoThe 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. (more…)

Top 10 Reasons to Visit Morocco

morocco camels beachThe world is filled with fascinating places to visit, and there will be a time when you have to choose which destination is right for you. We’re not afraid to let you know, though, that if you’re looking for a vacation experience that encompasses adventure, culture, history and wilderness, you should look no further than Morocco, a diverse country filled with majestic palaces, interesting museums, mouth-watering cuisine and large expanses of stunning natural landscapes.

Still not convinced? Here are ten great reasons to make Morocco your next vacation destination:

1. Trekking

The Rif Mountains, High Atlas Mountains, Middle Atlas Mountains and Anti-Atlas Mountains all fight for attention from trekking enthusiasts. Located in the northern portion of Morocco, the Rif Mountains’ peaks may not be as high as those in the High Atlas Mountains, but they are covered with forests and caves. The Middle and Anti-Atlas Mountains are not as heavily visited as the High Atlas, so they offer a quieter, more personal experience with nature. (more…)