Marrakech Popular Arts Festival
For ten days, the bustling city of Marrakech manages to cram in even more popular sights and sounds than it boasts already during the Marrakech Popular Arts Festival.
If Morocco is a nation in love with music and performance, the Place Djemaa El Fna in Marrakech is the centre of the show, with its daily bill of storytellers, acrobats and troupes of hypnotic Gnaoua musicians. During this annual festival, the Place and surrounding locations become the al-fresco venues for an even wider variety of traditional folk performances from throughout Morocco.
The El Badi Palace in particular acts as the centre of events over the course of the festival. Built in the 16th century by El Mansour to house his court, the legendarily grand structure was entirely stripped by Moulay Ismail a century later. Although the only remains today are the red walls and the ruined foundations of a few internal structures, there is no denying the imposing scale of the place.
During the rest of the year, when it plays home mainly to a colony of nesting storks, El Badi is a peaceful respite from the bustle of Marrakech Medina. For the duration of the festival, however, its courtyards are packed with enthusiastic performers and spectators. From the Berber musicians and dancers of the High Atlas to the Andalus-inspired musicians of the North, from the trance-inducing music of the Southern Gnaouas to the art of the belly dancer, every element of Moroccan culture combines to create a vibrant impression for visitors and locals alike.
If a simple visit to the Place Djemaa El Fnaa has inspired you on a previous trip, imagine the impact this hospitable town can have during its own festival.