homeMoroccoMarrakech travel guide > Marrakech culture guide
Marrakech guide
Traveler café 
Travel directory
Last updated : Nov 2009
Marrakech Culture Guide
Marrakech Culture Guide - TravelPuppy.com
Music is at the heart of cultural life in Marrakech, as it is throughout the whole of the country. Distinctions between public and private performance are practically non-existent, as several of the best performers are to be found playing to all that want to listen at Jemaa-el-Fna.

More formal cultural events take the form of festivals, as there is little by way of dedicated theatre, dance or opera venues, although there are some Arabic performances in smaller theatres for those who wish to seek them out. Performances combining dance, music and theatre are very popular during the National Festival of Popular Arts (see Special Events). Posters around Marrakech advertise forthcoming comedy events, although performances are in Arabic or French only.


Anyone with even a passing interest in music should go straight to the Jemaa-el-Fna. The best time to go for music is in the mid to late evening, as the square steadily empties and the dedicated street musicians take over, playing their repetitive, rhythmic melodies on a mixture of instruments including flutes, guitars, mandolins, drums and makeshift violins. The most enchanting of the styles on offer is Gnawa trance music, best represented by the internationally renowned band Nass Marrakech, formed in the city. This music, a combination of African styles, combines repetitive rhythms and choric voices to create a trance-like awareness of the present moment.

Marrakech is almost definitely the best place to enjoy the fusion of Moroccan music, as the city has been the host to Arab, Andalucian, Berber and African influences for up to ten centuries. For North African music lovers, 1 predominantly good time to visit is in June or early July, during the 2 weeks of the National Festival of Popular Arts.


Marrakech and the surrounding countryside has long attracted several leading film-makers in search of stunning set locations. Alfred Hitchcock shot The Man Who Knew Too Much here during the 1950's and, more recently, Martin Scorsese used the city to suggest the biblical Holy Land in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

Gillies MacKinnon faithfully reproduced the Marrakech of Esther Freud’s novel Hideous Kinky in his 1999 film adaptation of the book.

As a city for watching movies, there are 2 venues in Guéliz worth bearing in mind: The Colisee (telephone number: (044) 448 893) on boulevard Mohammed Zerktouni, which shows mainly American blockbusters, and the Institut Français, on route de la Targa, Djebel Guéliz (telephone number: (044) 446 930), which shows mainly French-language films.

The annual Marrakech International Film Festival takes place during November attracting stars from the Arab world and Hollywood alike.

Literary Notes

The most observant writing on Marrakech in the last century has been by foreign writers.

The Voices of Marrakech (1978) by the Nobel-prize-winning author, Elias Canetti, is possibly the best – a superb memoir of the city during the last years of French rule in the 1940's and early 1950's.

Esther Freud’s Hideous Kinky (1992), made into a film starring Kate Winslet, the definitive fictional evocation of the impact of Marrakech on idealistic Westerners.

Gavin Maxwell’s Lords of the Atlas (1966) tells the story of the Glaoui family who ruled from Kasbah Telouet in the High Atlas Mountains.

A Street in Marrakech (1988) by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea demonstrates the trials of life inside the Marrakech medina through the eyes of an American couple who live there.

Books by other modern Moroccan writers, few specifically on Marrakech but one Moroccan novelist worth reading is El-Khouri Idriss, whose novels include Al-Bidayat (Beginnings) (1980), Al-’ayyam wa Allayali (Days and Nights) (1982) and Madinat Atturab (City of Dirt) (1988). These books convey strongly the feel of everyday Moroccan life in coffee shops and other urban settings and show a firm obligation to representing the voices of marginalised members in society.