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The 18th Annual Gnaoua Music Festival took place in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast from May 14th -17th. Every year, the festival showcases the best of Moroccan Gnaoua musicians and a wide array of Gnaoua and world music. Gnaoua is a musical genre based in Sufi Islamic culture with its roots in sub-Saharan Africa. Moroccan and international artists are also invited to perform, often, in unique fusion concerts alongside Gnaoua groups. One of the most anticipated World Music acts at this year’s festival was Hindi Zahra, a Moroccan-born vocalist who played Essaouira for the first time.
Essaouira owes much of its past, present and future to its situation on a bay sheltered from the fierce trade winds of the Atlantic Ocean by an archipelago of small, rocky islands. Towards the end of the 18th century, Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah (Mohammed III) created a strategic role for Essaouira in his new trade policy oriented towards the Atlantic. He instructed the construction of the Kasbah (King’s Quarters) and the Skala fortifications which became the basis for the medina (old city) we see today. He ordered the closure of Agadir harbor, further south, and effectively routed a large amount of trade between Europe and West and Central Africa through his new port. The Sultan was the first Head of State to recognize US Independence in 1776, thereby creating a strategic linkage in support of his trade objectives in Morocco.
Every year, the sun-bleached, windswept city of Essaouira on Morocco’s Atlantic coast plays host to a festival of Gnaoua and World Music. Normally it is held in June, but this year’s 18th edition will take place – like many of the main Moroccan music festivals – in May, to avoid a clash with the holy month of Ramadan. The dates for this year’s event are 14-17 May 2015.
Morocco is such a photogenic country. The Best Times to Travel to Morocco and discover the 6 Best Views is spring and fall. The bright, Mediterranean sunshine makes for a special light, whether you are photographing deserts, mountains, cities, dunes or coastal scenery. The colors of the natural elements, the architecture and the handicrafts such as carpets, highly polished teapots, hand-stitched and embroidered leather babouches slippers or flowing caftans make for great subjects, as do the people and animals of Morocco. It’s best to always ask before taking someone’s picture and don’t be offended if they refuse given many Moroccans are modest and private. Morocco also has several stunning vistas which you will want to snap during your trip. Here is a lowdown of where to go to capture the six best views of Morocco.
Morocco is one of the ancient intersections of civilization. Boldly situated on the far northwestern corner of Africa, Morocco’s expansive shoreline stretches from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Mediterranean. The cultural diversity of contemporary Morocco reflects its historic vantage point as a gateway to Europe and the world. Morocco’s heritage offers visitors an encounter with an exotic society and its customs, an incomparable cuisine, and a shopper’s paradise of magnificent markets.