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September romance

Of all moussems (Muslim festivals) the one in Imilchil every late September has become the most famous around the world. This small mountain village is by itself nothing spectacular compared to other villages in the region, but the festival is a time of colourful clothes, flirting and dance. During the festival young girls and boys from many different villages are allowed to meet, with the purpose of marriage.

Future brides and grooms in Imilchil, Morocco
The start of the festival. Along the front you see four future brides dressed up in local costumes. Future grooms are dressed in white, and three of them can be seen here too. Photo: Nik Wheeler/Corbis

The region around Imilchil is scattered with tiny villages, often inhabited by only one large family. When the young are ripe for marriage, fresh blood must be imported from other families. As the morals are still strict for many, independent search for a wife or husband is not acceptable. But during this festival, the problem of marriage is solved for many. But nobody marries here, they get engaged for marriage, and save the fun of the wedding celebration for later.

Signing of contracts
Conclusion of the festival: registration of new engagements. Photo: Nik Wheeler/Corbis
The whole festival, its charm and autenticity, is under the threat by tourists coming to watch. Even if most tourists going to Imilchil are considerate and try to be as invisible as possible, many fathers feel that the chastity of his daughter is in jeopardy. But even more dangerous is the dangers of money. Local profiteers might be tempted to do whatever they can to aid the experience of the visitors, by influencing the rituals or helping tourists to get as close to the action as possible.

Hotels and alternatives
Small, basic hotels, but camping should not a problem.

Restaurants and alternatives
Eating is done by buying fast food, which sometimes can be just as delicious as what you get from a first class restaurant in cities.

Privat vehicle (roads are quite good), trekking or hitchhiking. But there can be some taxis doing the trip, but then you should be equipped with enough time to wait.

Change Money
No banks.

Be discrete, even if the festival of Imilchil is heavily promoted, visiting this festival is an intrusion in other people's lives.

By Tore Kjeilen