International Event Marrakech Popular Arts Festival
By Tsadenna G. Assefa, January 01, 2020
In July the temperature reaches close to 40oC in Marrakech, Morocco. But the temperature is not the hottest thing that happens during that month. For most people, it is unfathomable to imagine Marrakech being livelier and more frenzied, but the National Marrakech festival of popular arts manages to achieve that. The legendary Festival has been a magnet for tourists and art enthusiasts from all over the world since it was created by King Mohammed V in 1959. The purpose pursued by the monarch is very much applicable in 2020 as it tries to preserve and display the rich oral heritage, culture and the arts of the land. In short, Moroccan’s musical and artistic legacy is showcased every year in Festival performances taking place in venues scattered throughout Marrakech.
Most of the major events take place around the grounds of El Badi Palace, which provides a historical framework for the festival and a glimpse to visitors of its former grandeur before it was destroyed by Moulay Ismaï in the late 1600s. Red walls and an expansive courtyard are all that remains from the once-great palace that took over 25 years to construct. Dubbed “The Incomparable” by the locals, it is said to have had some 300 rooms in its glory time, all decorated with gold, precious stones, Italian marble and glass. It had also gone on to become one of the most luxurious in Africa. The Palace was erected to commemorate the defeat of the Portuguese in the Battle of the Three Kings.
The other major venue for the festival is Marrakech’s main square, Jemaa el F’naa. The square, which even during the rest of the year is quite a tourist magnet with its dizzying array of cafes, food stalls, shops and vendors, is further decorated to suit the festival needs. This venue is a UNESCO masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage, and it can take days to see and experience all of it.
Le Village is one of the other locations where the festival takes place. This large space divided into six major areas houses many of the musical and cultural events of the festival.
One of the most anticipated events, the “Fantasia”, is held nightly just outside the city walls. This traditional choreographed horse performance involves groups of charging horseman dressed in traditional clothing.
Music and dance are vital parts of the Moroccan lifestyle, and the festival builds on this and shares with the world the unique mix of modern entertainment and traditional arts which define the Moroccan culture. Taking place throughout the whole month of July, the month-long festivals attracts artists, dancers, singers, theatre troupes, fortune tellers and snake charmers from all over Morocco and all over the world. The festival also brings together all parts of Morocco so visitors can see performances from ancient folk dancers and traditional Berber musicians as well as belly dancers, fusion bands and pop musicians.
Attending the Marrakech popular arts festival would be incomplete without a relaxing and peaceful walk in the attractive Majorelle Gardens. The palm and olive trees orchard in Menara gardens are also perfect spots to relax in the evening before diving right back into the festivities.
As if Marrakech wasn’t already the best place to learn the Moroccan culture, this festival amplifies it making it the best time to be in Morocco, sing and dance to their music and generally, get entertained for a perfect respite and amusement.