Step inside the sacred and traditional world of the Gnawa, an Afro-Moroccan group whose music and culture are the heartbeat of Essaouira. Meet with Gnawa masters and experience their addictive music in hidden domains inaccessible to outsiders.
What to Expect
Kick off your 2.5-hour Essaouira experience under the iconic clock tower and begin a journey back in time and tradition.
You’ll weave your way through the medina to visit a zaouia, or temple of the Gnawa people. This is a sacred place reserved for traditional lila rituals, often performed to treat psychological ills, drive out evil spirits, or remedy scorpion stings. These lilas still take place and usually last all night long and into the wee hours of the morning.
Follow a kuyu, or Gnawa dancer, to his private home for some tea and a demonstration of the sometimes acrobatic Gnawa dance moves, accompanied by an explanation of their typical clothing. Often made at home, these intricate designs are unique to the Gnawa performers and include bold colors, embroidery, and cowrie shells.
Continue on to the private quarters of a maalem, or master, to learn about the making of the guembri. This lute-like instrument is the base of all Gnawa music and you’ll get to learn how it’s made and hear it played. Rarely do outsiders get invited into these personal spaces, generally reserved for Gnawi, musicians and their friends.
Despite often having no formal training, the maalem, the leader of any Gnawa troupe, is highly studied in the rhythm, emotion, and sounds of the guembri and its songs. They grow up in families and circles of musicians or healers, learning the calls and chants from an early age. Maalem are highly respected in Essaouira and have much traditional knowledge to share.
Finish the evening as hip locals do in Essaouira, chilling at a local music spot, grooving to soulful sounds that fuse Gnawa with Jazz, Latin, Reggae, and more. Your local guide can recommend where to have dinner or carry on the night, if you’re so inclined!
- Local English-speaking guide
- Gnawa demonstrations/performances
What's Not Included
- Personal shopping
Know Before You Go
As you will be entering sacred and private spaces, please be considerate of local tradition and wear appropriate clothing. Covering from the shoulders to the knees is recommended for both men and women. You will be walking over some uneven terrain, so comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Evenings can be cold and a warm layer is advisable. An umbrella, rain jacket, and closed- toe shoes may be necessary in January and February.
This is a child-friendly tour. Children from the ages of 6-11 are permitted on this tour. Children younger than 6 are permitted at no extra cost, but please make sure you inform the guides of this before starting the tour.