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Mawazine occupies Rabat for more than a week: around 2.5 million visitors flock to this music festival with 7 stages spread around the Moroccan capital. Fans gather here from all around the world. And artists as well: in addition to stars from Morocco and Africa, the line-up includes international names such as Placebo, Maroon 5, Usher, Jennifer Lopez, AVICII and Pharrell Williams.
Odds are you have never heard of Mawazine, but it is the second largest music festival in the world (after the Donauinselfest in Vienna). This year will be the 14th edition. Many artists have graced its stages: from Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston to B.B. King, Rihanna, Kylie Minogue and Stromae. The line-up leans towards African music and world music in every possible genre, but you can also watch artists from countries as unexpected as Uzbekistan and Iran.
Mawazine is organised by Maroc Cultures. Chair Mounir Majidi is also the personal secretary of Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who is keen on showcasing a modern side of Morocco. Mawazine offers plenty of opportunity for this, but is not without its controversies. In 2013, religious groups were offended by the ‘immoral’ performance by British singer Jessie J, who took to the stage in nothing more than a see-through top, a large pair of knickers and running shoes. The following year, Ricky Martin issued a subtle protest against the Moroccan prohibition of homosexuality. Even in Morocco, politicians differ in opinion. Some state that the 60 million dirham (approximately 5.7 million euro) invested in the festival would be better spent on healthcare and education. All of this does little to diminish the popularity of Mawazine. 2 years ago, 185,000 people watched the show by David Guetta, an absolute record.
“185,000 people watched the David Guetta concert in 2013”
The secret to Mawazine’s success is that it is totally free. Nobody pays to watch the big names that perform in the OLM Souissi, one of the 4 large arenas. The other 3 large stages are reserved for Moroccan, African and Oriental music. There are also 3 smaller stages that
do charge admission. Upcoming talent performs in a culture centre, while a theatre offers an intimate setting for the bossa nova of Flavia Coelho and the blues of Barbara Hendricks. Listen to jazz by Carmen Souza, fado by Maria Berasarte and tango by Débora Russ among the ruins of old Roman city Sala.
The Mawazine Festival (Rythmes du Monde) runs from 29 May through 6 June. You can fly to Rabat with AIR FRANCE KLM, with a transfer in Paris. Or fly through Casablanca and take a one-hour train ride to Rabat. For more information and tickets see:www.festivalmawazine.ma