An enchanted place where time has been suspended, Marrakech is one of the most hectic cities on earth. It is completely magical, a concoction of Islamic green against the bare, brown plain of Haouz with the snowy High Atlas rearing up behind like a tidal wave towering through the haze.
The main square has a continuous carnival atmosphere with its abundance of acrobats, soothsayers, water sellers and storytellers, and gives you a glimpse of its rich and remote roots, its ancient past still planted firmly in the present. The main focus of every approach to the city is the Koutoubia Mosque’s minaret – the crowning centrepiece of Marrakech with its 203 feet high tower; the very element of Moslem architecture.
Founded by the Late King Mohammed V in 1959, the National Festival of Popular Arts set out to contribute orally to the preservation of national heritage.
This event is a tribute to Morocco’s cultural diversity, with each region showing its own specific expression through its art, rhythm, song, dance, poems, costumes, and instruments. The array of rhythms and styles will introduce you to the wealth and creativity of Moroccan culture.
This year’s programme reflects the rich musical heritage from all four corners of the Kingdom of Morocco, with both traditional and new generation arts.
Some of the traditional dances from around Morocco to be included in the programme are:
The North-East and Central Morocco
Menghouchi: Accelerated ‘Warrior’ Dance, telling the story of the role played by the region in the history of the Kingdom.
Aisawa: Religious music
Abidat’Rma: Song and dance inspired by the ritual of the hunt
Ait Hdidou: Fascinating songs and dance that evoke the heartache of the betrothed Imilchil. According to legend, the tears of the bride and groom filled lake Isli and lake Tislit.
Hassada: This dance symbolizes the end of harvest, and is an expression of joy related to the richness of the land.
Haiti: The progression of Ait Hdidou and similar to the Middle Atlas ‘Ahidous’, this dance has a faster pace and is even more hectic with Bendir drums as part of the composition.
Souss and Great South
Rokba: Usually performed by a large group of men in white robes, the rhythm and pace of the dance are controlled through collective movement of the group whilst chanting.
Guedra: A guedra is a cooking pot which was covered with animal skin by the Blue People of the Tuareg Berber to make a drum. The often fully-veiled dancer comes to her knees to the beat of one drum in this ritual trance dance, which serves as a blessing to friends, family, the community and God.
Ahouach Tissint: This Dance is performed as part of the rites of marriage. The man dances with a dagger tracing circles slowly around the girl and ends up on his knees.
Houara: Coming from Inezgane near Agadir, the Houara is one of the most traditional dances of Morocco. Performed by a group of men and women in a circle, the rhythm gradually gets stronger and stronger – a sensational dance to watch.
Tazouite: Dance of the bee from the region known for growing roses.
Middle and High Atlas
Ahidous: Traditional dance with poetic song performed to the rhythm of the Bendir drum by the Berber tribes of the Middle Atlas in memory of former fertility rites.
Ait Boughmaz: Guided by a a single leader playing the double flute, stories are told to the tribe in the same way as the old troubadours, leading up to love stories and marriage.
Al Haouz Marrakech
Gnawa: Or Gnaoua originated in sub-Saharan Africa and blended with Berber and Sufi religious songs and rhythms. A trance-dance gradually building in intensity, it is accompanied today with the same instruments of bygone years – the hypnotic sound of the three string lute and heavy iron castanet’s.
Oulad Sidi Hmad Oumoussa: Amazing acrobats and tumblers that represent the nomadic group from Sidi Ahmed Moussa
Taskiouine: Dance of warriors – free, powerful and virile and performed only by men. The dancers beat out the rhythm with their feet and clap their hands energetically – an athletic but beautifuldance.
Tkitikat: Troubadours singing in purely Marrakchi
Ghiyata: Traditional music which accompanies the Bride