10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco

Morocco is undoubtedly a year-round destination, with something for everyone no matter when you decide to visit. In the winter, there's skiing in Oukaïmeden; and in summer, the beaches of Essaouira and Asilah beckon. There are also a number of fascinating festivals and events hosted every year, and depending on your interests, you may want to schedule your trip around them. In this article, we look at 10 of Morocco's best annual events, ranging from world-famous endurance challenge Marathon des Sables to cultural festivals in Fez and Marrakesh. 

This article was updated and re-written in part by Jessica Macdonald on November 7th 2017. 

  • 01 of 10

    Marathon des Sables

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Running in the Sahara Desert. edu viero/ Getty Images

    Often referred to as the Toughest Foot Race on Earth, the legendary Marathon des Sables is a six day multi-stage race through the harsh environments of the Sahara Desert. Approximately 600 competitors from 30 countries take part every year, with finishers completing a total distance of 250 kilometers/ 156 miles. Competitors must be self-sufficient, carrying their own food and equipment and sleeping in communal tents set up along the way. 

    Where: Sahara Desert
    When: Usually in April - check online for confirmed dates. 

  • 02 of 10

    Kelaa-des-Mgouna Rose Festival

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Worker Gathering Rose Petals. Simon Russel/ Getty Images

    Morocco's Dades Valley is also known as the Valley of the Roses for its incredible crop of the fragrant flower. Every May, the rose harvest is celebrated in the oasis town of Kelaa-des-Mgouna, which is home to a large rose water distillery plant. The festival starts on a Friday and lasts late into Saturday, and includes rose parades and stalls selling the flowers in huge quantities. Entertainment takes the form of traditional song and dance as well as the celebrated Miss Roses pageant. 

    Where: Kelaa-des-Mgouna
    When: ​Mid May - check online for confirmed dates.

  • 03 of 10

    Fez Festival of World Sacred Music

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Fez Festival of World Sacred Music. nathalie_r/ Flickr.com/ CC BY 2.0

    The Fez Festival of World Sacred Music lasts for nine days and includes an array of open-air concerts. You never know what you might see - from Iranian whirling dervishes to mystics, chanters and dancers from all over the world. A festival celebrating the local culture of Fez is held at the same time. Together, the two festivals provide a wonderful insight into traditional life in the old walled city. Sip mint tea while sampling authentic Moroccan food and listening to Sufi chanting. 

    Where: Fez
    When: Spring - check online for confirmed dates.

  • 04 of 10

    Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival. Magharebia/ Flickr.com/ CC BY 2.0

    Based on the traditions of Gnaoua music, the Essaouira Gnaoua and World Music Festival has grown to include musicians from all over the world. First launched as a celebration of Moroccan musical culture in 1997, the festival lasts for four days and features events held at open-air venues dotted throughout the picturesque town of Essaouira. Discover the magic of Gnaoua, a unique genre inspired by the music, dance and religious rites of the Berber, African and Arabic people. 

    Where: Essaouira
    When: Summer - check online for confirmed dates.

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  • 05 of 10

    Marrakesh Popular Arts Festival

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Fantasia Horse Riders. Gonzalo Azumendi/ Getty Images

    The Marrakesh Popular Arts Festival attracts entertainers and artists from all over Europe. As well as musicians and dancers, you can expect to see fortune-tellers, acting troupes, snake charmers and fire-swallowers. The main events take place in the ruins of 16th-century El Badi Palace and ​Djemma el Fna, the medina's main square. Don't miss the Fantasia, an after-dark spectacle held outside the city walls that features hundreds of charging horsemen robed in traditional dress. 

    Where: Marrakesh
    When: Summer - check online for confirmed dates.

  • 06 of 10

    Imilchil Marriage Festival

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Bride and Groom at the Imilchil Marriage Festival. Anders Ryman/ Getty Images

    Every September, members of the Berber communities in the Atlas Mountains gather in the rural town of Imilchil to celebrate the legend of two star-crossed Berber lovers who drowned themselves after their parents forbade their marriage. The Imilchil Marriage Festival allows young men and women to choose their own spouses, and many couples get engaged at the festival (although the marriage takes place later). The event is marked by singing, dancing and feasting. 

    Where: Imilchil
    When: September - check online for confirmed dates.

    

  • 07 of 10

    Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca. Andrea Pavan/ Getty Images

    Ramadan refers to the ninth month in the Muslim calendar, during which time Muslims must abstain from food, drink and other physical needs during the daylight hours. As a time to purify the soul, refocus attention on God and practice self-sacrifice, Ramadan itself is a sober month in Morocco. However, the end of the fasting period is marked by the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which lasts for several days. The celebration is typically family-oriented, and involves plenty of feasting. 

    Where: Throughout Morocco  
    When: The month of Ramadan, which changes date every year. 

  • 08 of 10

    Erfoud Date Festival

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Dates for Sale. Towfiqu Photography/ Getty Images

    Held over three days in early October, the Erfoud Date Festival celebrates the harvest of more than a million date palms in the Erfoud region. After the harvest, celebrations include traditional music, dancing and colorful processions. The crowning of the Date Queen is another highlight, as is the high-octane dromedary race. Come to soak up the festive atmosphere, learn about Berber culture or savor date-inspired local cuisine. 

    Where: Erfoud
    When: October - check online for confirmed dates.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Eid al-Adha

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    Eid ul-Adha Preparations. Gavin Quirke/ Getty Images

    Eid al-Adha is a global Muslim holiday that marks the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. It is intended to celebrate the trials of the Prophet Abraham, who was asked by Allah to sacrifice his only son. To commemorate this show of faith, Moroccan Muslims slaughter an animal on Eid al-Adha, usually a sheep or goat. Much of the meat from the sacrifice is donated to others to symbolize the act of giving away something of importance to oneself. 

    Where: Throughout Morocco 
    When: Fall - check online for confirmed dates.

  • 10 of 10

    New Year's Eve and Yennayer

    10 Amazing Annual Festivals and Events in Morocco
    New Year's Eve Celebrations. Todor Tsvetkov/ Getty Images

    New Year's Eve is usually marked by some celebration, especially by tourist restaurants and hotels. Spending the night in the desert is a popular tradition for travelers and a great way to welcome the new year. In some parts of Morocco, traditional New Year's Eve is actually celebrated around the middle of January, while the Berber people mark the beginning of the agrarian calendar year, Yennayer, in accordance with the Julian calendar.

    Where: Throughout Morocco 
    When: December - January