Fes Festival of World Sacred Music Tour
June 3-15, 2011
Fes, Meknes, Marrakech, Essaouira
Join us for an Exhilarating and Profound Journey
into the Sounds of Sacred Music, Sufi Mystical Practice,
and the Culture of Morocco!
- Attend 7 memorable evening concerts at the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music
- Explore the ancient imperial cities of Fes, Meknes, and Marrakech
- Learn traditional chanting with Sufi teachers
- Relax in the white-washed port city of Essaouira
Set foot on the Road to Morocco and join our caravan of pilgrims and explorers heading for the fabled city of Fes and this, the 15th annual World Sacred Music Festival. Founded in 1994, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music welcomes and celebrates distinguished musicians inspired by the world's great faith traditions. Past festivals have included such diverse talents as the whirling dervishes of Turkey, African World Music superstars Miriam Makeba and Youssoun'Dour, Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar, and American soul singer Ray Charles.
Our journey begins in Fes (Fez). Here we will step back in time, winding our way through the maze of streets and alleys of Fes el-Bali (Old Fes), a UNESCO World Heritage site and the most faithfully preserved medieval medina in the Arab world. In Fes el-Bali over 750,000 Fassis (residents of Fes) live without any motorized vehicles behind walls originally built in the 9th century. This is a city for walking, where we will encounter the tantalizing aromas of spices and tanjines (traditional Moroccan dish) or the stronger scents of the tanning quarter (keep a sprig of mint close to your nose), while exploring the souks (markets), mosques, hammams (public baths), gardens, palaces, and historic ruins of this magical place. Fes, like all of Morocco, abounds in sound; music fills the streets along with the hammering of metal, the shouts of vendors, and five times daily the chanting of the muezzein from the minaret, calling the faithful to prayer.
While in Fes we will attend lectures with leading spiritual, cultural and political figures as part of the World Sacred Music Festival's Colloquium on the Soul of Globalization. We will attend private sessions with Sufi shaykhs to learn the practice of zikr, the chant practice of Sufism. Day trips will include options to hike in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, a visit to the imperial city of Meknes, relaxation and rejuvenation in the hammams, and walking exploration of Fes el-Bali. Our immersion in the city includes time for shared study and exploration of Fes along with ample opportunities for you to wander off on your own, to follow your personal interests and to discover dramatic and extraordinary aspects of the imperial city of Fes. We highly recommend novelist Paul Bowles suggestion that when in Fes to "lose oneself in the crowd — to be pulled along by it — not knowing where to and for how long ... to see beauty where it is least likely to appear."
After seven days of concerts, lectures and explorations of Fes, we will move south to the fabled city of Marrakech, founded in the 11th century. Steve Scholl will lead our small group (15-30 persons) along with local guides and spiritual teachers. Marrakech has Berber roots and, unlike Fes, the spiritual center of Morocco, Marrakech is regarded more as a market center and place for pleasure and entertainment. The social scene is more relaxed, encompassing a contemporary feel, especially in the Ville Nouvelle. In Marrakech, for example, it is not uncommon to see women dressed in jeans and tank tops riding motorcycles throughout the city.
This difference is best noted by a visit to the Djemaa El Fna. A massive open square at the entrance to the medina of Marrakech, it is always fascinating. However, at night it transforms into a raucous stage for storytellers, acrobats, dancers, musicians, snake charmers, and comedians. Be prepared to see a Berber storyteller complete his tale with a rooster sitting on his head. Visit the food stalls of the square that are surrounded by a wagon train of orange juice vendors. The Djemaa El Fna is an intriguing and compelling experience day and night. So, too, are the entire medina and architectural landmarks of Marrakech, also known as the Red City for the color of the building materials used in the walls.
The old city is dominated by the Koutoubia minaret. Nearly 230 feet high, it is visible for miles as we approach Marrakech. Completed around 1150 CE, the magnificent minaret is part of the mosque complex that also houses the tomb of a great female saint of Morocco, Fatima Zohra. The daughter of a 17th-century religious leader, tradition teaches that she was a woman by day and a white dove by night.
From Marrakech we take a two-hour morning bus ride to the port city of Essaouira, where we will spend a couple of days relaxing in this lovely beach town. Essaouira is a working fishing port and its whitewashed and blue-shuttered houses and buildings signal our arrival to Morocco's favorite beach getaway destination. The souk (market) is small compared to Fes and Marrakech and features marquetry and wood-carving workshops. We will find it lively and filled with bargains and quality crafts.
Essaouira is our final stop. From here you will return to Marrakech for your flight back home.