Imilchil Moussem, or marriage festival is held each year in mid-September, and has become one of Morocco’s most popular Festivals, attracting romantics from all over the world. Filled with Berber dancing, drumming and chanting, the three day feast sees up to 40 couples tie the knot, and many others find their prospective partner. Single women, divorcees and widows searching for a husband are adorned in traditional cloaks and hoods, eagerly anticipating marriage proposals. When a woman accepts a proposal, she says to her suitor “You have captured my liver”, and the match is made!
According to legend, a young man and woman from two local tribes fell in love, but were forbidden to see each other as their parents were sworn enemies. The lovers cried themselves to death, each forming a lake from their tears – Lake Isli (meaning groom in Berber) and Lake Tisli (meaning bride).
As a tribute to their memories, the guilt-stricken families initiated a betrothal festival on the anniversary of the lover’s death, during which couples from different tribes were allowed to meet and marry each other.
Today the festival is a meeting place for young tribal people from the Ait Haddidou and Er Rachidia region, giving them the opportunity to find a lifelong partner. Parents usually accompany young women and assist them in finding suitable partners, whereas older candidates (due to their position within the tribe) can choose their own husbands without having to ask for parental consent.
The engagement party at Imilchil is one of the biggest attractions of festival, where the theme is of course love. Much attention is devoted to this event as it has a lot of cultural significance, and it gives an opportunity to ensure the survival of the old traditional marriage story and share it with a worldwide audience.
The Imilchil Moussem generates a huge amount of revenue for the region, as it attracts an influx of domestic and foreign visitors – in excess of 30,000 during the course of the three day event. To increase its appeal further, the traditional folk aspect of the festival has been increased, and includes old traditional music and Berber dances such as Ait Hdidou, Talsint, and the waltzes of the pretty dancing bee (Nahla) to Kelaa M’gouna .
The festival is dependent on the harvest, so dates are not fixed, but it usually falls in mid-September. Imilchil is accessible most easily from the South – Tineghir / Erfoud / Er Rachidia /Midelt. 4×4 transport is essential, and a guide or driver recommended.