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Imilchil Betrothal Festival

Fast Facts
  • Location: Central Morocco, Atlas Mountains
  • Significance: Tribal Fair and Festival, Betrothal Festival
  • Attraction Type: Tribal Culture, Music, Betrothal Festival
  • How to Reach: It is best to book a comprehensive Morocco tour, and make a visit to Imilchil as a part of the itinerary. There are many tourist agencies that provide tours to the Imilchil Betrothal Festival. Transfers are available from Casablanca to Fez, and then travel from Fez to the Atlas Mountain village of Imilchil.
  • Nearest Airport: Mohammad V Airport Casablanca
As summer closes in on the slopes of the Atlas Mountain, and the tribe readies to hibernate for the long winter months, it is time for the Berbers to shed their nomadic mores and settle in. This transition is marked by social gatherings, fairs and festivities. Of all traditional Berber fairs, one of the most sacred, ancient and interesting is the Betrothal festival at Imilchil.

Overview of Betrothal festival at Imilchil

Although it is largely known as the betrothal fair, match making is not the only activity that occurs here. Like any other fair, there is some trade as well. More importantly, social and property disputes are settled by the tribal elders during these fairs. The highlight, however, is the match making part.

Young men and women, looking for their right partners, arrive from all across the Berber community at Imilchil. The men dress in white, put on their best robes and the shiniest and largest silver daggers as signs of prosperity and stand as exhibits. This is one fair where the women are expected to make the first move. Rising to the occasion, the women put on their best dresses graced with the best embroideries that their fingers can produce, their costliest jewelries and anything else to heighten their beauty and prosperity. Then they go around looking for the right mate.

Once a woman finds the man she likes, she takes his hands and take a walk. All other necessary matrimonial enquiries are done during this walk. If the negotiations work out, the families are introduced to one another. Together, they walk to the scribe’s tent and the couple is declared man and wife. The process goes on for all three days, and even then it is not enough for many to find their true mates. They have wait for another year.

Great festivities take place on the final day of the festival. Feasts, with plenty of food and drinks take place where everyone participates, including ones who have found their right mates and those who have not. The presence of authentic Berber festivities through dance, song, music and colorful dresses, has made it a popular tourist destination. It is now one of the most common aspects of cultural tourism in Morocco. Although the growing presence of foreign tourist in this festival has added to the local economy significantly, there is a persistent worry that it may in some adverse way affect the authenticity and the exclusivity of the festival and indigenous culture of the Berbers.


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