Marrakech is widely regarded as the creative soul of Morocco (with respect to Fes, which is definitely the spiritual heart of the country), and a number of annual festivals hosted by the city help to confirm the view. Specific dates can vary from year to year, but it's worth preplanning your trip to coincide with one of the following:
Dakka music -- polyrhythmic percussion beats accompanied by extended chanting -- has been performed for centuries by the craftsmen of Marrakech's souks in tribute to Sabaatou Rijal, the city's seven spiritual guards. For 10 days each February, the Dakka Marrakchia Festival brings together the craftsmen/performers from seven of Marrakech's districts for nightly performances in Jemaa el Fna as well as the city's Théâtre Royal.
The Festival International du Film de Marrakech (www.festivalmarrakech.info) aims to be North Africa's version of the Cannes Film Festival, and over its 6-year history, its has attracted the likes of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Irons, and Roman Polanski, along with a host of Arabic, European, and Indian film stars. More than 100 films are shown during the weeklong festival, and select films are shown nightly on a huge screen in the northwest corner of Jemaa el Fna. Although the exact dates vary, it's always hosted toward the end of the year.
Friendship Fest (www.friendshipcaravan.org) is a musical event promoting peace and friendship between the cultures of North America and Morocco. Performed outside Bab Ighli and next to the Agdal Garden, recent concerts have attracted more than 200,000 people who had come to see some of North America's most popular Christian rock acts (Joy Williams and the Crabb Family, for example) perform alongside popular Moroccan contemporary and traditional music stars. The event is free and held each May.
The Marrakech Popular Arts Festival is held over 10 days each June or July. During the festival, Marrakech becomes a big open-air theater packed with traditional performers from all over Morocco -- High Atlas Berbers, Riffian-Andalusians, southern Gnaoua-ians, and Arabic belly dancers. The majority of performances take place in the El Badi Palace or on Jemaa el Fna, which becomes even more frenzied than usual. Each day is topped off by an evening performance by gun-wielding horsemen just outside Bab el Jdid.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.