Morocco Culture, Festivals and Events
Festivals marking the seasons and the various types of harvests are held throughout Morocco. Some honor holy men (known as moussems). Participating in traditional celebrations is an excellent way to experience local customs and culture. Celebration may include fantasias, with horsemen demonstrate their skills, as well as dancing, singing and feasting.
Many religious holidays are combined with feasting, fireworks and other entertainment. The most holy religious holiday is Ramadan, the month set aside for fasting to commemorate God’s revelation of the Koran to the prophet Mohammed.
Ramadan is welcomed with fasting during the day, and rejoicing in the streets at night. Cafes stay open in the major cities until 3:00 AM and you will find families setting out picnics at 1am in local parks.
Aid el Kebir, the Feast of Sacrifice, commemorates Abraham’s offering of his son to God. The two-day feast includes the slaughter of a sheep. All parts of the animal are used. This is also a great time of charity, as the poor are provided for with large donations of food.
The Annual World Sacred Music Festival in Fez, held at the end of June, is and international event where leading musicians come from all over the world to share sacred music traditions. This many-cultured event has as its objective the cultivation of world peace and understanding. Among the countries represented are Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Greece, Iran, Pakistan, USA, France and India playing everything from Andalusian music to Hasidic songs.
Tafraout Almond Tree Blossom Festival
El Kelaa M’Gouna Rose Festival (Ouarzazate)
Imouzer of Ida ou Tanane Honey Festival (Agadir)
Sale Wax Lantern Procession
Essaouira Gnawa Festival
Fez Sefrou Cherry Festival
Marrakesh Festival of Folk Art
Marrakesh National Festival of Popular Arts
Guellmim Camel Festival
Imilchil The Fiancee Festival
Tissa (Fez) Horse Festival
Erfoud Date Festival
Despite the ongoing modernization of the country, handicrafts remain an integral part of Moroccan culture and economy.
The craftsmen of Morocco are organized in guilds, and in the souks, they are arranged according to their craft. The dyers are in one quarter, jewelers are in another, and makers of brass trays and ornaments are in yet another. Visitors to the souks of the major cities such as Marrakesh, Fez, Rabat and Meknes can experience first hand the process of how fine leather goods, hand-painted ceramics, brass ware, woven fabrics and rugs, and wood crafts are made.
Morocco is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country with small Jewish and Christian minorities. The culture of Morocco has been strongly influenced by Berbers, Arabs, Moors, Jews and the French, and is tolerant of differences. While Moroccans are hospitable to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, most Islamic religious monuments are closed to non-Muslims. There are some notable exceptions, though, such as the newly built Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the Mausoleum of Mohammed V in Rabat and the tomb of Sultan Ismail Moulay in Meknes.
Moroccan cuisine is punctuated by a delicate use of aromatic spices and features fruits and vegetables as well as fish and meats. Some of the best-known dishes include: Couscous, a semolina grain served with meat and vegetables; Mechoui, lamb roasted on a spit; Pastilla, a flaky pastry typically stuffed with pigeon and almonds; and Tajine, a stew cooked in a distinctive earthenware dish that is also known as tajine. Moroccan pastries are often prepared with honey, almond, raisins, or sesame. The national drink is mint tea, which is often offered guests and potential buyers. The larger hotels and restaurants serve wine and liquors. The local Moroccan wine is excellent.
The souk is one of the most characteristic aspects of rural life. It’s a place and a means of traditional trade; a market place. Since the Moroccan population is primarily rural, each region has a certain number of souks that are held in the open or inside a special enclosing wall. These souks usually carry the name of the day they are held on.
The Main Souks of Morocco:
Agadir Saturday – Sunday
Errachidia Sunday – Tuesday – Thursday
Rissani Sunday – Tuesday – Thursday
Sidi allal Bahraoui Sunday
Souk Sebt of Kenitra Saturday
Souk Had Ouled Jelloul Sunday
Souk Tleta Tuesday
Souk El Arba Wednesday
Souk Khmis Rimila Thursday
Jamaa Lalla Mimouna Friday
Had Kamouni Sunday
Skoura Monday – Thursday
Zagora Wednesday – Thursday
Bagoumite Thursday – Sunday
El Kalaa Wednesday
Goulmina Souk of Camels Saturday
Tiznit Thursday – Friday