What to do in Marrakech, first African Capital of Culture

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What to do in Marrakech, first African Capital of Culture

In 2020, Marrakech becomes the first African Capital of Culture. The plethora of artistic events taking place in the "Red City" is another fine reason to go.

What to do in Marrakech, first African Capital of Culture

Instant immersion in Moroccan art

Upon landing at Menara Airport, you are immediately entranced by the creative power of Marrakech's cultural identity. Indeed, the terminal, entirely redesigned by architect Abdou Lahlou, is in itself the expression of Moroccan art with its geometrical patterns on the façade and its Mashrabiya style play of light and shade. While the aesthetics are inspired by traditional Islamic architecture, the materials are at the cutting edge of green technologies. Photovoltaic panels are used to meet part of the airport's energy needs, while the lighting is provided solely by LED systems. This impression of economic and cultural modernity is confirmed a few minutes later, as you enter the Red City walls, only three kilometres away.

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What to do in Marrakech, first African Capital of Culture

Let the show begin!

Naturally, if this is your first visit, you will stroll along Jemaa el-Fna square and visit Majorelle Garden. Your itinerary of cultural and festive outings does not stop there: a large number of varied and colourful events take place through the seasons. In June, you attend one of the performances of Marrakech du rire, a comedy festival internationally renowned in the French-speaking world. Founded in 2011 by Jamel Debbouze, it is a real springboard for young talent from the Maghreb. At the end of November, the curtain rises on Marrakech International Film Festival (FIFM), which, thanks to the quality of its programming and speakers, is a reference beyond Africa and the Arab world. Every year, it brings together a whole host of celebrities such as Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Robert de Niro and Tilda Swinton. FIFM is also an incubator for talent with its Cinécoles competition, which spotlights the best short films by young Moroccans studying the seventh art. More broadly, it supports the development of the film industry in Africa and the Middle East, in particular through the Atlas Workshops, launched in 2018.

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What to do in Marrakech, first African Capital of Culture

The magic of dance

Witness a completely different atmosphere with the International Festival of Contemporary Dance, On marche. As winter takes over the ochre city, the festival offers choreographic performances, shows and exhibitions mixing Moroccan and European dancers. Out of this momentum and these exchanges, the school of choreographic arts, Nafass, was born in the spring of 2018.

Marrakech's National Festival of Popular Arts, on the other hand, is more established, founded in 1960. Performances of traditional music and dance take place in emblematic venues around the city, such as Menara Gardens, El Badi Palace or the Royal Theatre.

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What to do in Marrakech, first African Capital of Culture

The literary scene

Marrakech's literary scene is a force to be reckoned with: you will discover new writers through the La Mamounia award. Every year, this legendary palace gives an award to a French-speaking Moroccan author, aiming to promote their work throughout the Kingdom and across the world. In the meantime, be sure to visit the hotel's superb gardens – open to the public – and enjoy a piping hot mint tea at the poolside or in the shade of the Menzeh pavilion, the hotel bar.

Whatever the event, Marrakech reaches far beyond its borders. The city offers the image of a Morocco resolutely anchored in the 21st century, proud of its traditions, but with a clear capacity to equip itself with modern cultural infrastructures. It undoubtedly deserves its title as Africa's first Capital of Culture in 2020.

Discover all the other faces of Marrakech with our dedicated guide.

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