Essaouira Music Festival: Gnaoua World Music Festival

Every June, the Gnaoua World Music Festival takes place in the charming coastal town of Essaouira, Morocco. This vibrant event transforms Essaouira into a music lover’s paradise, blending ancient rhythms and modern tunes. Amidst the town’s historic streets and scenic beaches, the festival creates a captivating atmosphere that attracts music enthusiasts and cultural explores alike from around the world.

Essaouira Music Festival

Celebrating its 25th edition from June 27-29, 2024, the Gnaoua World Music Festival 2024 illuminated the town with a unique energy. People of diverse cultures converged to revel in the music and embrace the spirit of celebration. Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or new to festivals, the Essaouira music festival promises an unforgettable experience, where the magic of music and community intertwines.

What Makes the Essaouira Music Festival Special?

This annual event transcends mere music, serving as a vibrant celebration of history and artistic fusion. Renowned artists from jazz, pop, rock, and beyond collaborate with Gnaoua musicians, blending traditional rhythms with contemporary influences. Each year brings a fresh lineup of international stars and local talents, ensuring every attendee experiences something uniquely magical and culturally enriching at the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival.

The Gnaoua Festival 2024 lineup featured talents like Maâlem Hamid El KasriSaint Levant, Buika, and fusion acts such as Ablaye Cissoko & Cordaba with Mehdi Qamoum, and Bokanté amongst other. The diverse range of artists promises a dynamic celebration of music and culture set against the beautiful backdrop of Essaouira.

The Beat of Gnaoua Music

At the heart of the Essaouira music festival is Gnaoua music. It mixes African, Berber, and Arabic sounds with instruments like the guembri (a three-stringed bass), krakebs (metal castanets), and soulful chants. This music has a spiritual vibe that’s both mesmerizing and uplifting.

gnaoua festival essaouira
Ablaye Cissoko & Cordaba with Mehdi Qamoum Fusion Act

Where Does All the Essaouira Music Festival Magic Happen?

The festival comes alive across various iconic stages in Essaouira:

Moulay Hassan Square: The vibrant heart of the festival, situated mid-way between the beach and the medina, where crowds gather for free concerts beneath the open sky.

Beach Stage: Where you can immerse yourself in solo concerts against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean’s breathtaking beauty.

Borj Bab Marrakech: A historic venue resonating with magical musical collaborations, blending traditional rhythms with contemporary beats. Here, away from the larger festival venues, Borj Bab Marrakech hosts private events where attendees can relax on comfy puffs amidst ancient walls and Moroccan charm, enjoying intimate musical performances.

But the magic doesn’t stop there. The festival also features smaller, intimate settings within the medina’s winding alleys. Zaouia Sidna Blal (known as the spiritual birthplace of Gnaoua, Sidna Bilal Zaouia is home to one of the Essaouira’s oldest Moroccan brotherhoods) and Dar Souiri  (serves as  the headquarters of the essaouira-mogador association) come alive with spontaneous Gnaoua performances, showcasing the essence of this captivating music. Other notable venues include Bayt Dakira and Zaouia Issaoua, each providing a distinct backdrop for festival events.


gnaoua festival
Private Concerts at Borj Bab Marrakech

Getting Essaouira Music Festival Tickets Before They're Gone

While many Gnaoua performances are free and open, exclusive shows require a ticket. Tickets for the Gnaoua Festival sell out quickly, so it’s smart to plan ahead. They usually go on sale a few months before the festival starts. You can buy them online from the festival’s official website. Trust us, it’s worth getting them early!

In addition to the vibrant music lineup, the festival offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences. Attendees can explore art exhibitions, participate in festival workshops, and gather at the Talking Tree—a traditional meeting place where discussions range from social issues to local politics. These activities enrich the festival experience, offering deeper insights into Essaouira’s cultural heritage and community dynamics.

Exploring Essaouira

Beyond the Essaouira music festival, this city has a lot to offer. You can wander through the old town’s narrow streets, visit artisan workshops where they make beautiful crafts, or relax on the sandy beaches. The nearby Argan forests are also a peaceful escape if you need a break from the music scene.

Where Can I Stay During the Gnaoua Festival?

Finding a place to stay during the Essaouira music festival is part of the adventure. The city offers a range of accommodations to suit every preference and budget, from cozy riads in the old town (medina) to fancy hotels by the beach. It’s a good idea to book early because places fill up fast during the festival. Here are some of our recommendations:

  1. Riads in the Medina: Consider staying at Riad Chbanate, a traditional riad offering authentic Moroccan décor and a peaceful courtyard atmosphere. Another great option is Riad Dar Maya, known for its chic, tranquil rooms with a rooftop hot tub and a traditional hammam.

  2. Hotels by the Beach: Enjoy a beachfront stay at Hotel Le Medina Essaouira Sea & Spa, featuring panoramic views of the ocean and luxurious amenities. For a more boutique experience, Hotel Riad Villa Maroc offers elegant rooms with nearby access to the beach.

  3. Boutique HotelsExperience the charm of Salut Maroc, a boutique hotel combining contemporary design with Moroccan craftsmanship. Les Jardins de Villa Maroc, located just 10km from the center of Essaouira, offers a peaceful haven perfect for a memorable stay in Essaouira.

World Music Festival Morocco: Final Thoughts

So, if you’re ready for an adventure filled with music, culture, and Moroccan charm, mark your calendar for next year’s Essaouira music festival. Plan ahead, secure your tickets early, and discover a cozy spot to call home during your stay. Essaouira and its vibrant festival eagerly await your arrival, promising warm hospitality and unforgettable melodies. Will you be joining us?

Thank you for reading: Essaouira Music Festival: A Journey into Morocco’s Musical Soul

Practical Tips for Gnaoua Festival-Goers

  • 3-DAY PASS: Grants access to reserved front-of-stage areas at the Festival’s main stages:
  • – Moulay Hassan Stage
  • – Beach Stage

1-DAY PASS: Grants access to reserved front-of-stage areas at the Festival’s main stages for the specified evening date marked on the badge:

  • – Moulay Hassan Stage
  • – Beach Stage

Note: Passes do not include tickets for access to private concerts at Borj Bab Marrakech, Dar Souiri, Bayt Dakira, Zaouia Issaoua, and Zaouia Sidna Blal. No refunds will be possible in the event of loss or theft of a ticket.

If you plan to go in and out of the Gnawa festival grounds, make sure they scan your QR code upon entry and exit. This will allow you to re-enter later; otherwise, you won’t be able to get back in.

To pick up your Gnaoua festival tickets, head to the Official Festival Boutique, located at 10 Rue du Caire, Old Medina, Essaouira. The boutique is open from 11 am to midnight. Festival passes, which include a badge and a bracelet, will be available for purchase starting June 26th, subject to availability.

Remember, all Gnawa festival badges must be worn with a bracelet. You can pick up these bracelets at the kiosk located in the Moulay Hassan Square parking lot. Note that everyone must be present to collect their own festival badges and bracelets.

For private events at Borj Bab Marrakech, you will receive just a ticket. Tickets for these intimate concerts can be purchased exclusively at the Official Festival Boutique or directly at the venue before each concert, again subject to availability.

If you’re unable to secure Gnaoua tickets online, no need to worry! You can still enjoy the Gnaoua Festival with free access to most of the main stages. Special access tickets may also be available for purchase at the Official Festival Boutique in Essaouira, as mentioned earlier.

To secure a good seat at the Gnawa private events, make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes early. These intimate settings fill up quickly, and arriving early ensures you can find a comfortable spot. Additionally, bring your own water, as drinks are often not provided at these events. It’s also a good idea to bring a light jacket or sweater, as the evenings can get cool.  Enjoy the music and the cozy atmosphere!

– Main stage access is free, but passes are required for reserved areas in front of the stage.
  • – Passes and bracelets are mandatory for entry and exit.
  • – Online passes must be exchanged for badges at the Official Festival Boutique. Email confirmation is not considered a valid Pass.
  • – Bracelets must be worn with all the badges and can be picked up at Moulay Hassan Square’s kiosk.
  • – No refunds for lost or stolen tickets; fraud will result in immediate ticket cancellation.
  • – Children under 12 must be accompanied for safety reasons.
  • Attendees may be photographed or filmed for festival media coverage; consent is implied upon attendance.

For those attending the larger Gnaoua festival events and who may get tired quickly, it’s a good idea to bring water and a lightweight portable chair. This chair can be a lifesaver, offering a comfortable seating option whenever you need to rest and recharge while enjoying the music.

Whether you’re coming from Marrakesh or Casablanca, getting to the Gnaoua Festival in Essaouira is straightforward. You can reach Essaouira by plane, car, or bus. From Marrakesh, it’s about a 2.5-hour drive by car or bus. If you’re starting from Casablanca, expect a journey of approximately 4 hours by car.

Now that we have all the information we need, it’s time to plan your trip to Essaouira Gnaoua Festival!


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