Fès Festival of World Sacred Music, June
Festival of Popular Arts, July
Marriage Moussem, September
Marathon des Sables, March
Riffian Trekking, April
Moroccan winter: the north is wet and snow makes many mountains impassable for trekkers and even motorists. Marrakesh and the south receive the most tourists, especially around New Year.
The year-round Djemaa el-Fna carnival acquires a sporty dimension with this annual road race, when 5000 marathoners cross the finish line on the grand square. The route follows the city ramparts and alleys of palms, orange and olive trees.
Winter continues: the weather is generally poor, although drier, balmier spots, such as Marrakesh and Agadir, are bearable. Apart from overlanders and city-breakers, few visitors are spotted.
Moussem of Sidi ben Aïssa
One of Morocco’s largest moussems (festivals) takes place at the Sufi saint’s mausoleum, outside Meknès medina walls. Public displays of glass-eating, snake bites and ritual body piercing are no longer allowed, but fantasias (musket-firing cavalry charges), fairs and the usual singing and dancing are.
Held on even-numbered years, the Marrakech Biennale is the city's foray into both high and popular artistic culture, with everything from public art displays to chin-scratching conceptual installations.
The country wakes up with the beginning of spring, when the mountains thaw and wildflowers and almond and cherry trees blossom. Winds begin to disturb the desert and Souss Valley, continuing through April.
Almond Blossom Festival
A very pretty festival held in the Anti Atlas in spring, when the Tafraoute area is awash with blossoms. Traditionally about celebrating the harvest in Morocco’s almond capital, the festival is now also about local folklore, with singing, dancing, theatre and storytelling.
Marathon des Sables
Starting and finishing in Morocco’s movie town, Ouarzazate, the Saharan ultramarathon is as epic as films made in ‘Ouallywood’. The gruelling six-day challenge, held in March or April, crosses 243km of desert. Water is provided.
Spring continues: the country is lush and green and temperatures are now reliably hot nationwide. Tourist numbers are high, particularly around Easter, when prices jump.
Festival of Sufi Culture
This Fez festival hosts events including films and lectures, and concerts with Sufi musicians from around the world. The setting is the Andalucian-style garden of the Batha Museum, which is housed in a 19th-century summer palace.
Between the wet northern winter and fierce summer, spring is perfect for trekking trails in the Rif Mountains. The best scenery is found in Talassemtane National Park, including the God’s Bridge rock formation and, closer to the Mediterranean, the Al-Hoceima National Park.
Casablanca's popular jazz festival has been taking over the city for more than a decade now, and is currently held in April. Expect the best local and international names to hit the stage.
Prices drop in hotels and souqs as the tourist season ends, although the heaviest summer heat is yet to come; the average daily temperature in Marrakesh is about 28°C. Ideal for mountain trekking.
During the Festival du Desert Er-Rachidia hosts performers from across the Sahara, including local Gnaoua band Les Pigeons du Sable. Down the Dadès Valley, garlands come out for Kelaâ M’Gouna’s festival to celebrate the rose harvest.
This popular and free music festival in Rabat grows every year, and attracts big names from the Arabic, African and Western spheres. Expect anything from Elton John to Afrobeat and Lebanese divas.
Summer is hotting up, although High Atlas peaks are still snowy. Northern Morocco and the coast are good places to be. During the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music there is major demand for local accommodation.
Sleepy Sefrou awakes for Morocco’s longest-running town festival, held in mid-June. Folk music, artists’ displays, parades, fantasias and sports events celebrate the cherry harvest – culminating in the picturesque crowning of the Cherry Queen.
Fès Festival of World Sacred Music
Fez’s successful world-music festival has hosted everyone from Youssou N’Dour to Bjork. Equally impressive are the concerts by Moroccan tariqas (Sufi orders); fringe events include exhibitions, films and talks. May be held in May depending on Ramadan dates.
Gnaoua & World Music Festival
A passionate celebration held in Essaouira in late June, with concerts featuring international, national and local performers, and art exhibitions. A great chance to hear some bluesy Gnaoua, developed here by freed slaves.
Snow melts from the mountains, the High Atlas is scorching and Ramadan adds intensity to the temperatures, hovering around 30°C. The beaches are breezy, but busy with domestic and European tourists in the north.
Asilah confirms its arty leanings with this cultural jamboree, which attracts some 200,000 spectators to three weeks of public art demonstrations, workshops, concerts and exhibitions. A concurrent three-day horse festival features a fantasia.
Festival of Popular Arts
This street-theatre festival is a typically colourful Marrakshi event, highlighting the best of Moroccan traditional and popular culture. Djemaa el-Fna is even more anarchic than usual during the opening-night parade, featuring 500-plus performers.
This month is a scorcher with an average of 40°C in Marrakesh, and it can easily exceed that in the interior. Head to southern Atlantic beaches to avoid the crowds.
During Morocco’s largest moussem, picturesque whitewashed Moulay Idriss fills with fantasias, markets and music. Five pilgrimages to this moussem are said to equal one to Mecca. Moussems also take place in Setti Fatma, southeast of Marrakesh, and Ouarzazate.
With autumn, Morocco is once again prime territory for foreign travellers. Beaches empty of local holidaymakers and even the desert is pleasant with the scent of dates and gentle breezes. Eid al-Adha interrupts transport and business in August/September.
At this famous three-day festival in the Middle Atlas village of Imilchil, local Berbers search for a partner. Everyone looks their best, sporting woollen cloaks, white jellabas (flowing garments) and elaborate jewellery.
Hamdouchi Moussem is a dance-off between religious fraternities outside Demnate’s two zawiyas (shrines); Fez’ Moussem of Moulay Idriss sees a musical, rosewater-showered procession through the medina; thousands of pilgrims head east to the moussem at Sidi Yahia Ben Younes, which includes a fantasia.
Attracting an ever-growing roster of international as well as local musicians, Tangier's annual jazz festival is a great way to take in the cosmopolitan side of Morocco's music scene.
Another popular month to visit, although, rain is beginning to set in north of the Middle Atlas.
Rallye Toulouse Saint-Louis
In late September/early October, this event in Tarfaya remembers the colonial French airmail service that stopped here, and its most famous pilot, the writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Planes pass through en route from Toulouse in France to Saint Louis in Senegal.
Nuits sonores Tanger
Tangier shows as the city that always moves with times, with its new cutting-edge electronic music festival.
A busy time in Marrakesh and further south, with more people heading to the desert or trekking nearby. Birdwatchers stake out wetlands and Mauritania-bound overlanders roll through.
Around the Immouzzer des Ida Outanane waterfalls in the High Atlas foothills, villagers climb into the trees to shake olives from the branches. In Taliouine, a festival celebrates the saffron harvest, and you can see locals picking the flowers.
The country is busy at the end of the month with Christmas holidaymakers. Snow closes High Atlas passes, but the white blanket is good news for skiers.