Morocco is becoming home to global festivals. One of the biggest in the world, Mawazine, is hosted by the capital city Rabat every year. It has welcomed several superstars such as Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Jessie J and Cat Stevens. This year I decided I should have an insider look over the Moroccan cultural scene so I have been to Essaouira’s Gnaoua Festival and Fes Festival.
Between 12 and 15 June 2014 took place the 17th edition of the international Gnaoua Festival in the Atlantic coast city of Essaouira. I joined the start of the festivities with the traditional opening day parade and the first concert. The parade was definitely my highlight as it goes from one gate of the medina to Moulay Hassan Square where main concerts are hosted with all the excitement of the crowds. A crowd which is by the way very mixed: tourists from around the world and Moroccans from all ethnicities and religions. It is clearly a festival that spreads peace and tolerance in the region. Some of my other highlights were the rooftop concerts in Borj Bab Marrakech where famous Maalam Gnaouis perform intimate gigs. Watch the Vlog below in Gnaoua Festival.
Essaouira is a beautiful city. I had the chance to visit during the day before joining the concerts. I have been to the port of the city, the centuries old Sqala and walked around the Old Town famous for it’s blue colors and its Jewish Quarter, Mellah. Unfortunately, I have missed an important place where a famous episode of Games of Thrones has been shot. The bad thing about Essaouira was the food, I hardly found a good place where to eat… But fish is good there!
Following my 4 days musical expedition to Essaouira. I took the road further North for another festival. For only one night in Fes, I watched the Iraqi singer Kadim Al Sahir live in concert! It was a little bit disappointing when it came to organisation… Fes Festival should be ashamed for over selling tickets and leaving about 20% of the audience standing while they paid for their seats! It was a general disappointment in the venue that created some altercations! Moreover, the ticket I have purchased was Category A which is advertised as the front seats but no… big surprise for everyone… our seats are behind hundreds of seats reserved for sponsors families. There is nothing wrong with offering sponsors and their families free seats for the concert but what is extremely wrong and coward is to never mention that to people who purchase Category A’s most expensive tickets in the intention to be right in front of the performer.
Fans were very frustrated. But anyway, the singer performed well and sang some of his famous hits. My favourite part was a song about Baghdad that spread lot of emotion throughout the venue. Oh and the venue was the best thing of that beautiful Arabian summer night! Open air square protected by imperial walls that definitely make us feel in the Old Town of Fes. The place is called Bab Al Makina. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to visit Fes and its beautiful medina.
I had a great time in Gnaoua Festival with all the concerts and the atmosphere in the little city of Essaouira. Fes Festival despite the bad organisation was good, the program had some very interesting acts to discover most of the times in free concerts. Most of Moroccan festivals are free but there is a space reserved for people who would like to purchase a ticket to be in front. I surely enjoyed my Moroccan expedition, I will definitely try some other festivals and discover new musics of the world.