Dances and typical dances of Morocco: an explosion of folklore that will surprise you.
Undoubtedly, the typical dances of Morocco are one of the best surprises for any visitor to this country. Both for its variety and for its color and uniqueness. In addition, they are very different from each other: a Moroccan rhythm and dance from the north has little to do with another that comes from the Sahara or another born in the Atlas. That is why we dedicate this page to them, where you can find out which are the most important dances, what meaning they hide and where you can attend a show of this type.
Where to see Moroccan dances
Moroccan dances are very present in the daily life of the country. In some cases, these typical dances are performed by groups of the highest level and professionalism, while in other cases they arise almost spontaneously and their participants are humble people who just want to express their folkloric richness. Therefore, you will be able to see Moroccan dances in a wide variety of places, such as the following venues.
Folk music festivals
Aware that Moroccan folk dances are an intangible heritage to be preserved, many institutions promote festivals and events to make these dances known to the general public (including many tourists), involving dancers of all ages and backgrounds. Sometimes, they are only Moroccan festivals, but in other cases they are international events in which dances from other countries are also represented, in a kind of intercultural exchange of the most enriching.
That is the case of the Festival of Sacred Music of the World of Fez, which takes place in this beautiful city, usually in the month of June and on an annual basis. As its name suggests, it focuses on religious dances and is open to dances from other countries.
Special mention should also be made of the National Festival of Popular Arts of Marrakech, which is usually held in July. In this case, not only Moroccan dances but also other cultural expressions play a leading role. And the same goes for the International Festival of Arts and Cultures of Agadir FIAC, in this coastal city.
Another outstanding example can also be found in the Atlantic, such as the Essaouira Gnawa Festival, although in this case dedicated almost exclusively to this typical Moroccan dance, declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Dances in venues
Another option is to attend a Moroccan dance show in a specialized venue. These can be, for example, theaters or cultural centers, often located in central areas of large cities, such as the historic medina. But they can also be small private venues, where dinners can also be served, thus combining two cultural experiences in a single evening. The cities more accustomed to welcoming tourists have a greater offer in this sense, such as Marrakech, but also the big city of Casablanca can host shows of this type, whether permanent or seasonal.
Private shows in hotels
It is also possible to organize a private show to enjoy a typical Moroccan dance in the hotel itself, especially if the hotel has a function room in which to host the event. Similarly, you can organize a show of this type in emblematic places of the country, such as a tented camp in the Sahara desert or a beach with special charm. In this case, you will need a specialized and knowledgeable agency in order to hire the artists involved. This is a service that, by the way, can be offered in a personalized way by Morocco Tourism, in any city and corner of the country.
In Moroccan weddings
As we told you on this page, Moroccan weddings are very special events. Probably the most important day in the lives of those who get married. Therefore, the celebration is always held in style. And in them, you can not miss a musical show, usually accompanied by a typical Moroccan dance, such as the Shikat. If you are lucky enough to receive an invitation to attend a wedding, do not miss the opportunity to enjoy this show.
In the street
As we said, Moroccan dances can also arise more or less unexpectedly in the street, for example on the occasion of traditional festivities, special dates or simply by a spontaneous initiative of its protagonists. These are magical and charming moments that many travelers do not hesitate to immortalize if they are lucky enough to witness one.
Guedra: a dance that comes from the desert
This is one of the typical Moroccan dances coming from the desert. In fact, it has Tuareg origins and arose in Guelmim, in the extreme south of the country. It is a mainly feminine dance, supported by music in which percussion predominates. They usually wear blue tunics and carry a veil with shells on their heads that at the beginning covers their faces, but later is removed to acquire a great prominence. In fact, the dance ends when the dancer throws the veil and lies on her back. Until that moment, the protagonists practically only dance on their knees, with some moments of standing dance. In addition, the dancers also demonstrate their vocal prowess: as the dance intensifies, they emit a very characteristic sound with their tongues.
Ahidous: the most representative of the Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains are home to many typical Moroccan dances. One of the most representative is the ahidous, very present on its southern slopes, near Ouarzazate, and in the Middle Atlas. It seems that its origin is related to the harvest, as a celebration of this important activity where agriculture is so important. Men and women participate in this dance, and they do it in a circle around a bonfire. The men play drums with a rhythm that increases progressively, involving more and more women. Poems are recited and a kind of tambourine called bandir is played in a lively way.
Khamsa We Khamsine: full of spirituality
It is a Moroccan dance in which women dance and has a very spiritual background because their movements, to the sound of percussion music, aims to release inner tensions and achieve full peace. In addition, it is a really showy spectacle because the dancers wear very colorful costumes, as well as a black skirt with a lot of flight.
Gnawa: a World Heritage dance
For many, it is the most famous Moroccan dance, as it has been declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco. In this case, its origins go beyond the Sahara, and comes from the sub-Saharan area. It was probably brought by former slaves from Sudan, who settled in the desert and other areas. In fact, some villages still maintain an important black population, such as Khamlia, where this dance is a sign of identity.
In this case, it is a male dance, where there is no lack of jumps, undulating movements and acrobatic turns. Musically it is characterized by a percussion background with a very lively rhythm, marked by tbel drums and a kind of castanets, called qraqab. String instruments (guembri) and even wind instruments (bagpipes or Moroccan oboe) are also used.
Shikat: the Moroccan version of belly dancing
Finally, we mention another typical Moroccan dance: the Shikat, which can be considered the local version of belly dancing. They are usually professional dancers who usually perform in specialized restaurants or at weddings. They wear very flashy and colorful costumes, often lavishly decorated with sequins, but unlike belly dancing in other countries, the dancers do not show their abdomen. Instead, they usually wear a kaftan, which is one of the typical Moroccan costumes: long, light and loose, with bell sleeves, often with very striking embroidery.
The dancer dances with rapid hip thrusts, pelvic undulations and sensual hand movements, in which they often hold a cloth to emphasize the movements. It is common for the men to form a circle around the protagonist, sometimes on their knees, as a form of animation or even to request a solo ‘aside’.
Other typical dances from Morocco
As we were saying, the list of typical dances of Morocco is very wide and diverse according to the region. These are other dances worth mentioning, together with their area of diffusion and/or their meaning:
Houara, in Inezgane, a few kilometers south of Agadir.
Taskiwin, in the western part of the High Atlas, and is considered a warrior dance.
Ahidous, from the Middle Atlas
Ouais, which is considered a mixture of ballet and Arabic music.
Haha, a male dance accompanied by flutes.