| 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).
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.
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
• 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
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.