The Ultimate Guide to the Gnawa Festival in Essaouira, Morocco 2023

If you're looking for a unique and exciting cultural experience, then look no further than the Gnawa Festival in Essaouira, Morocco. This annual festival brings together musicians and performers from all over the world to celebrate the rich history and traditions of the Gnawa people, an ethnic group from North Africa that has a unique style of music and dance.

What is the Gnawa Festival?

The Gnawa Festival is an annual event that takes place in the coastal town of Essaouira, Morocco. It was first established in 1998 and has since grown to become one of the largest and most important music festivals in Africa.

The festival celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Gnawa people, who are descendants of sub-Saharan Africans who were brought to Morocco as slaves. The Gnawa people have their own distinct style of music, which incorporates elements of African, Islamic, and Berber traditions.

When is the Gnawa Festival?

The Gnawa Festival typically takes place in June, although the exact dates can vary from year to year. The 2023 festival is expected to take place in mid-June, and visitors are encouraged to book their travel plans well in advance to ensure availability.

What to Expect at the Gnawa Festival in Essaouira, Morocco 2023

The Gnawa Festival is a four-day event that takes place in June 2023, featuring over 500 musicians and performers from around the world. The festival offers a unique opportunity to experience the vibrant music and dance of the Gnawa people, as well as to explore the rich cultural heritage of Morocco.

During the festival, you can expect to see a wide range of performances, including traditional Gnawa music, fusion performances that blend Gnawa with other styles of music, and contemporary music from around the world. There are also workshops and masterclasses where you can learn about the Gnawa musical tradition and try your hand at playing the instruments.

In addition to the musical performances, the festival also features a vibrant marketplace where you can shop for traditional crafts and textiles, as well as food stalls serving up delicious Moroccan cuisine.

Read my full article about the 24th edition of the festival

How to Get to the Gnawa Festival in Essaouira, Morocco 2023

Essaouira is a beautiful coastal town located in western Morocco, about two and a half hours by car from Marrakech. The easiest way to get to the festival is by flying into Marrakech Menara Airport and then taking a taxi or bus to Essaouira.

Once you arrive in Essaouira, you can easily walk to most of the festival venues, as they are all located within the old city walls.

Where to Stay During the Gnawa Festival in Essaouira, Morocco 2023

During the festival, Essaouira gets quite busy, so it's important to book your accommodation in advance. There are plenty of options to choose from, including hotels, guesthouses, Riads, and apartments.

If you want to be close to the festival venues, then consider staying in the old town or the nearby Moulay Hassan neighborhood. Alternatively, if you're looking for a more peaceful retreat, then head to the beachfront district of Diabat, located just a short drive from the festival.

How can you prepare for the Gnawa Festival?

To make the most of your visit to the Gnawa Festival, it's important to plan ahead. Here are a few tips to help you prepare:

  • Book your accommodations early: With thousands of visitors attending the festival, accommodations can fill up quickly. Book your hotel or rental well in advance to ensure availability.
  • Dress comfortably: The festival takes place outdoors, and temperatures can be warm during the day and cool at night. Dress in comfortable layers and wear comfortable shoes for walking and dancing.
  • Be respectful: The Gnawa people's music and culture are deeply spiritual and should be treated with respect. Be mindful of cultural differences and be respectful of the traditions and practices of the people you encounter.


The Gnawa Festival in Essaouira, Morocco, is an experience you won't soon forget. From the vibrant music to the welcoming locals, this festival is a celebration of culture, community, and spirit. With its stunning seaside location and rich cultural traditions, the Gnawa Festival is a must-see event for any traveler visiting Morocco. Start planning your trip today and get ready to immerse yourself in the music and culture of the Gnawa people.

So why not make 2023 the year you discover the magic of the Gnawa Festival in Essaouira, Morocco.

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