Tag Archives: travel

Fez Sacred Music Festival 2017

Cirque Shems'y

Opening Night of the Fes Sacred Music Festival 2017

The Fez Sacred Music Festival 2017 has come to a close. this year we were treated to a number of fabulous fusion collaborations. My three favourite acts of this year’s festival were Aziz Sahmaoui’s Cuban Project, the Songhai collaboration and Violons Barbares. I had expected the former two to be in my top three as the kora, Cuban music and Gnaoua culture are big interests of mine. However, the Barbaric Violins were a surprise hit for me. I loved their energy, their creativity and their musical entrepreneurship.

Read my contributions to the coverage of The View From Fez of the Fez Sacred Music Festival 2017 on my writing portfolio page.

The Best of Essaouira e-guide – updated

Best of Essaouira e-book It’s taken a while, but my e-guide to Essaouira, The Best of Essaouira is now updated for 2016. Unlike the usual pace of life, things have been changing fast in this sleepy seaside town, with many businesses closing or changing, so this 2nd edition represents a substantial revision. Available on the maroc-o-phile website and on Amazon for Kindle, The Best of Essaouira helps you make the most of your stay.

The Best of Essaouira gives you the lowdown – three choices in each category of the best places to eat, sleep, shop, watch the sunset and grab an elusive beer. Likewise, three ways to meet locals, to give back to the community and to get out into the countryside. And much more: The Best of Essaouira contains over 75 top tips in a concise, downloadable e-book. It takes no extra space in your luggage and it’s all you’ll need. All for only £3.49. 20% of proceeds go to support kids’ education in Essaouira.

Find out more on the dedicated page – and let me know what you think – both of the website and the book.

 

COP22 in Marrakech – the lowdown

COP22 in Marrakech

Source: cop22.ma

COP22 in Marrakech starts on Tuesday! In a previous life, I was a climate change negotiator; I represented the EU at the regular UN climate change meetings under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 22nd UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP) will take place in Marrakech from 7-18 November 2016. I remember my work at COPs 12 (Nairobi), 13 (Bali) and 14 (Poznan) fondly. COPs are hard work. Negotiations frequently go on all night and they feel like a battle of attrition. Agreements are made by consensus, so all Parties need to be won round before progress can be made. As much work is done in side meetings and at side events as in the formal meetings and plenary and negotiators frequently have to be in several places at once. All of this means the camaraderie between colleagues from across the world is incredible. And all that stress means there ain’t no party like a Conference of the Parties. So, this post is dedicated to all my friend and colleagues in the UNFCCC process. They have made some incredible progress, seemingly against the odds. Here is COP22 in Marrakech – the lowdown for negotiators. Continue reading

Summer 2016: Charity exhibition of Essaouira naive art

Exhibitions of Essaouira naive art by Ben Ali (Abdelghani Didouh) in Summer 2016.Essaouira naive art is known world-wide. The colourful style is reminiscent of aboriginal and outsider art from other cultures in Africa and on other continents. The Swiri artists are self-taught and many are principally employed in agriculture and fishing.

As I wrote in the Fodor’s Guide to Morocco, “The work of the naïve Souiri artists is frequently exhibited locally, and you can track down artists such as Abdelaziz Baki, Ali Maimoune, and Asmah Ennaji at their workshops in the joutiya, Essaouira’s flea market in the industrial quarter to the north of the medina. Here, their colorful work is displayed in two and three dimensions, often incorporating found objects or up-cycled items from the nearby market.”

This summer, Swiris and visitors will have a unique opportunity to see two exhibitions by local artist, Ben Ali (Abdelghani Didouh). The exhibitions are being held to raise funds for Essaouira-based charity Project 91, to establish a fund for the widows of fishermen lost at sea. Continue reading

8 tips for travelling with baby in Essaouira

when travelling wiht a baby in Essaouira, a baby carrier is essentialAvid followers of this blog will know that my Swiri husband and I now have a baby and I am currently in Essaouira with him (baby not hubby) for the second time. I don’t plan to get into mummy blogging, but I thought some parents might find it useful if I shared my top tips for travelling with baby in Essaouira. Moroccans love kids and your baby will be hugged, kissed and generally entertained everywhere you go. However, there are very few family friendly facilities. Some canny packing will help you make your trip with your previous little one as trouble-free as possible. Continue reading

maroc-o-phile: Lynn Sheppard

Although I have this maroc-o-philes section on the website, it would be hard to interview myself… Fortunately expat.com wanted to do the job for me. Here is their interview with me, Lynn Sheppard….

Lynn in Essaouira: “The Moroccan lifestyle is pretty laid back”

British expat, Lynn moved to Essaouira more than three years ago to be with her Moroccan partner. Freelance author and travel writer, she particularly enjoys the sun, the beach and the relaxed pace of life in the country.

Lynn in Essaouira: "The Moroccan lifestyle is pretty laid back"

Where are you from, Lynn, and what are you doing nowadays?

A civil servant and diplomat for 13 years, in 2012 I took a voluntary redundancy and moved to Morocco to be with my partner and establish a new rhythm in my life. I wanted to start a business and live in the sun. Over the last 3 and a half years, I have built a business as a published freelance author and travel writer. I also work with local non-profits and as a virtual PA and marketing consultant. In this way, I have built a totally portable new career.
We live in Essaouira, a town on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast which is famous for sardines, kite-surfing and gnaoua music. You can read about my life in Essaouira and pick up plenty of tips for visiting or living there on my blog, “Maroc-o-Phile“.

Continue reading

Reporting from the 21st edition of the Fes Sacred Music Festival

Fatoumata Diawara at the 21st Fes Sacred Music FestivalIn May 2015, I was fortunate to be invited to be part of the team at The View From Fez, the official English language media partner of the Fes Sacred Music Festival. Alongside editor Sandy McCutcheon (editor, reporter and photographer); Suzanna Clarke (sub-editor and photographer); Vanessa Bonnin (reporter and photographer) and Fatima Matousse (reporter), I reviewed the Forum and concert events on all 9 days of this year’s Festival.

As a Fes Festival first-timer, I found the 21st edition, which ran from 22 -30 May 2015, a great opportunity to see some acts I like, get to know some new artists and come to appreciate some new musical genres. My favourite concerts were: Omar Sosa and friends, Julie Fowlis, Fatoumata Diawara and Roberto Fonseca and The Royal Art of the Kora with Ballaké Sissoko. These are all acts I have seen and enjoyed before in different contexts. Of the acts which were new to me, I enjoyed Faada Freddy, Masks of the Moon and Ramadan Hassan and the Musicians of the Nile. I would have liked to have seen more of Benjamin Bouzaglou and Oumou Sangaré. Continue reading

21st edition of the Fes Sacred Music Festival

Opening night of the 21st edition of the Fes Festival of World Sacred MusicLast night the Fes Sacred Music Festival opened in the former imperial city of the Moorish Empire, Fez. This year, the audience was treated to a spectacle of sounds, projections and artists from across the African continent. The theme for this, the 21st edition, is “Fes: An African Reflection” and the opening night’s concert reflected the full spectrum of African music, traditions and customs as well as a broad selection of the artists playing in Fez over the coming 9 days. Continue reading

Essaouira Gnaoua Festival – 18th edition

Opening parade of 18th Gnaoua Festival 2015 EssaouiraEssaouira, 15 May 2015 – Yesterday, Essaouira‘s annual Gnaoua World Music Festival got off to a colourful start with the opening parade and concert featuring local and national gnaoua groups and international World Music artists.

This is the 18th edition of the event, which is the largest in the festival calendar of this small port town on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast. Other annual festivals include the Festival des Alizés, a celebration of international classical and traditional music held every Spring, and the Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques, a festival celebrating the Judeo-Muslim musical traditions of Al Andalous, which are also a frequent feature of Fes festivals such as the Sacred Music Festival, which begins next week in Fes on 22 May 2015.

Each year, the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival gets underway with a parade through the centre of the Essaouira medina of all the gnaoua groups in their finest regalia, embroidered costumes and caps studded with cowrie shells. The bands are often accompanied by standard-bearers carrying huge flags and feature the typical gnaoua instruments: the krakeb castanets, the stringed gimbri and the tbel drum, which is played with a crooked stick.

18th Gnaoua Festival 2015 EssaouiraEvery so often, the groups pause to demonstrate the fervent whirling and acrobatics which simulate the trance induced by the heavy beats of the instruments. In the street, though, in this carnival atmosphere, these movements are more for show than religious practice and the circles the gnaoua form resemble an elaborately coloured dance-off between rival acrobatic troupes.

Gnaoua music originated in sub-Saharan Africa. With the trade in goods and men across the great desert, African slaves brought their traditions and their experience of hardship and exile into Morocco. Over time, their traditions were absorbed into Islam and Gnaoua brotherhoods of adherents gathered around a maâlem (master) developed in zawiyas (centres devoted to religious learning). The Gnaoua tradition is strong in Essaouira, with its previous role as a major trading port and its centuries’ old connections to Timbuktu and other West African cities.

18th Gnaoua Festival 2015 Essaouira main stageSwiris -the natives of Essaouira – are particularly proud of their home-grown masters, such as Maâlem Mahmoud Guinéa and his brother Maâlem Mokhtar Guinéa, Maâlem Allal Soudani and others. However, they are also welcoming of the big names of Gnaoua music from other cities, such as Maâlem Hamid el Kasri, who opened the festival this year alongside Humayun Khan of Afghanistan. When a great maâlem is on stage, throughout the audience, one hears young and old singing along, responding to the chant of the master, and clapping out the frenetic polyphonic beat.

The Gnaoua Festival is also a stage for some of the best Moroccan and international stars of the World Music scene. The most exciting concerts are those on the main stage (on Place Moulay Hassan) late at night. The fusion concerts bring together a gnaoua group with artists from a completely different genre for a unique kind of mash-up unlike any other. Gnaoua jazz? Sufi-Voodoo fusion? Gnaoua-folk? Everything is possible under the starry skies and the gusting trade winds of Essaouira!

This article originally appeared on the blog, The View From Fez.

3 poolside restaurants in Essaouira

poolside restaurants in Essaouira

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc

The Essaouira medina is small and compact, and few hotels (apart from the prestigious L’Heure Bleue Palais) have the space for a pool. Some larger hotels outside the medina have pools, but often lack much of the charm of the riad guesthouses of the medina. Get the best of both worlds by staying in a medina riad and taking a day trip out for lunch to one of the poolside restaurants outside the city. The bonus is that being set back a little from the coast, these locations are also warmer and less windy – perfect for topping up your tan! There are many to choose from, but here are my top three.  Continue reading