Once a year the Berber village of Imilchil hosts an annual marriage festival, often referred to as “September Romance.” Located in the Midlet Province of central Morocco, Imilchil sits at 2110m in the Asif Mellulen “White River Valley.” This year the holy matrimonies will take place between August 23-September 8, 2019. Women wear colorful clothes, smile, nod, and make gestures to welcome a chosen suitor.
Morocco is a conservative and traditional country, however, on this celebratory day the stereotypical courting style is removed and women can choose their husbands on the spot. If a man accepts a gesture, he will take the hand of his prospective bride, and an espousal deal is solidified. The couples do not get married at the festival but they do sign their nuptial contract in front of a large village audience. When the bride leaves the fair to her groom’s house on a mule, she is followed by a trail of Hdia (wedding gifts).
The legend that inspired the festival says the nearby Isli and Tislit Lakes were formed by the tears of two lovers. Due to being in opposing tribes, they could not marry and both died of heartbreak. Today, the annual festival takes place at the Lake Tislit, where the Ayt Ḥdiddu lead their flocks during the summer season. The reservoir has been a Ramsar – UNESCO protected site since 2005. It is located inside the Haut Atlas Oriental National Park.
The Imilchil Festival is an extraordinary opportunity to be immersed in Berber culture and experience local Moroccan life. The mountain hamlet is home to the 17th century Ayt Hdiddu tribe and is part of the Ait Yafelman conservative. The province is also well known for the caves of Axyam, the Aguni waterfalls, the Ziz Gorges and Valley and the igherman (Berber castles).