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Morocco’s Fes Festival: Music, mysticism and meaning

Get ready for flamenco guitar, social consciousness and Sufi mystics. The world’s most spiritual music fest kicks off this week.

By CNN Travel staff 3 June, 2013

Uzbekistan's Yuldusz Turdevia Ensemble

Uzbekistan’s Yuldusz Turdevia Ensemble performed at the 2012 Fes Festival in Morocco.

The official goal of Morocco’s annual Fes Festival (June 7-15) “is to harness the arts and spirituality in the service of human and social development, and the relationship between peoples and cultures.”

More than earnest academic discussions, Fes Fest is a blast of music and dance, a raucous gathering of some of the most talented and exotic musicians in the region.

Organizers say between 300,00 and 400,000 are expected to attend this year’s festival.

Titled “Love is My Religion,” the opening night concert is being directed by Spain’s Andre Marin and showcases renowned flamenco vocalists Carmen Linares and La Macanita, legendary flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia, Morocco’s Amazigh songstress Cherifa and Sephardic singer Francoise Atlan.

American punk priestess Patti Smith is the festival’s closing act.

“Fes is the cultural, intellectual and spiritual cradle of Morocco, so it is significant that this annual festival takes place in the city,” says festival managing director Zebya Rahman.

Fes has been considered Morocco’s intellectual capital for centuries. In addition to the festival, visitors can check out the old medina and Dar Tazi gardens, or relax on Berber rugs and sip mint tea in atmospheric cafes around the city of approximately one million residents.

Fes Festival; June 7-15, 2013; tickets and information available on the festival website; most travelers arrive by rail or plane at Fes–Saïss Airport, located about 10 kilometers outside the city. Airlines that serve the aiport include Air Arabia, Air France, easyJet and Ryanair.