Six of the best music festivals in Morocco for 2022

Whether it’s a groovy rave among the dunes or a soulful celebration of sacred music, Morocco’s calendar is packed with must-see musical spectacles. Here are six of the best.

By Emma Gregg
Published 8 Apr 2022, 06:08 BST, Updated 8 Apr 2022, 09:10 BST
A singer from the Faiz Ali Faiz ensemble performs at the World Sacred Music Festival.

A singer from the Faiz Ali Faiz ensemble performs at the World Sacred Music Festival.

Photograph by Alamy

1. Transahara, Merzouga
Held in a secret location in the Erg Chebbi Dunes near Merzouga, Morocco’s desert rave features ambient electronica and psychedelic beats from European and US artists. Five days of groovy costumes and whimsical art in an otherworldly setting make comparisons with Burning Man inevitable, but Transahara is a far smaller affair, with an organised programme and no wild camping: everyone stays in comfortable tents or hotels. In 2022, it’s pushed back to 13-17 May, so be prepared for afternoon temperatures to soar above 30C. 

2. Mawazine Rhythms of the World Festival, Rabat
Mawazine, which rocks the Moroccan capital for nine days from May to June, is thoroughly international: global stars play to huge crowds at the OLM Souissi, Moroccan musicians headline on Salé Beach and a mix of nationalities take to the other stages. The 2019 edition attracted almost three million people, making it well over 10 times the size of Glastonbury and among the biggest music festivals in the world. Access to all but the VIP areas is usually free. 

3. World Sacred Music Festival, Fez
It’s hard to imagine a more atmospheric setting for a festival of contemplative music than the holy city of Fez. Launched in 1994 and usually held over 10 days in early June, the World Sacred Music Festival is a shining star of Morocco’s cultural calendar. Presenting styles as diverse as Chinese violin music, klezmer folk melodies and African-American gospel, it brings together artists of different faiths in promoting a culture of peace. 

4. Gnawa World Music Festival, Essaouira
Thanks to their hypnotic rhythms, soulful vocals, flamboyant attire and quirky dance moves, Gnawa musicians are popular all over Morocco, but Essaouira is their capital. The city’s effervescent, multi-stage music festival offers the chance to appreciate their artistry in a global context. Usually held in June and mostly free, the programme features daily concerts by top Gnawa groups alongside guest stars from West Africa and beyond, playing a stimulating mix of jazz, folk, reggae and blues. 

5. Oasis Festival, Marrakech
This late-summer gathering almost feels like a North African satellite of Ibiza’s and Croatia’s party scene: think yoga, cocktails and Champagne to a chilled-out playlist of underground house and techno. With a bohemian vibe, Oasis is small enough to feel intimate, with past editions taking over cool and quirky hotels south of Marrakech, setting up DJ stages, pop-up art galleries and food stalls in their gardens. This year’s runs from 16-18 September. 

6. Jazzablanca, Casablanca
While jazz tops the menu, side orders at Casablanca’s international festival may include pop, rock, hip-hop, folk and the type of modern mash-ups you’d expect from such a cosmopolitan, creative musical event. Jazzablanca’s organisers are on a mission to make jazz accessible to all, so some of the concerts are free. Usually held in spring or summer, this year’s edition is likely to be in the autumn.

Published in the April 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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