Meet under Essaouira’s iconic clocktowerfor a journey back in time and tradition. The Gnawa population has been in this region for ages, and their traditional music is off-the-charts popular in Morocco. Want to feel like a true local? This is a good place to start.
Kick off your Essaouira tour by heading straight to a medina music shop –a gathering places for local musicians - for an introduction to the local music scene. It’s not uncommon to find a group of friends jamming in these tiny spaces, playing percussion, krakeb (metal castanets), and other instruments pulled from right off the wall. Music is a part of life here (and what better way to draw in customers?!)
From here, a Gnawa dancer or kuyu will lead welcome you into his home for a captivating performance 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 colours, embroidery, and cowrie shells.
Then it’s off to meet the maalem or Master, who is the leader of any Gnawa troupe, and highly studied in the rhythm, emotion, and sound of the lute-like guembri and its songs. These maalem often have no formal training, but grow up in families and circles of musicians or healers, learning the calls and chants from an early age. See how the guembri is made and hear how it’s played in the private quarters of the Master.
Afterward, our Essaouira music tour continues on to the zaouia, or temple of the Gnawa people, 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.
In true local style, you’ll finish the evening like everyone does in Essaouira: chilling with a libation at a local music spot. This wonderful end to the tour brings you full circle from Gnawa’s past to present.
Recently, Gnawa music has been fused with Western and Latin music, making new sounds perfect for dancing, so if you’re so inclined, your guide can recommend where to carry on the night.
Inclusions: Local English speaking guide, Gnawa performance.
Exclusions: Personal shopping, tips / gratuities.
Dress standard: As we will be entering sacred and private spaces, please be considerate of local tradition and wear appropriate clothing. We recommend covering the shoulders to the knees for both men and women. As we will walk over some uneven terrain, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Evenings can be cold so a warm layer is advisable. An umbrella, rain jacket and close toed shoes may be necessary in January and February.
Your Trip: For your Urban Adventure you will be in a small group of a maximum of 12 people
Confirmation of booking: If you have your voucher, your booking is confirmed. We'll see you at the start point.
Get in touch if you have any concerns or require more information via the email address or phone number (business hours only) on your voucher.
Additional Information: We believe in Responsible Travel. A reusable bag is recommended to carry any purchases and reduce plastic bag waste.
Closure of sites: If there are any sites visited on the trip that can be closed at limited prior notice for any reason. Eg for official visitations, please provide comment and the alternate site that will be visited.
Child Policy: This is a child-friendly tour. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 inclusively are permitted on this tour. Children younger than 6 are permitted at no extra cost, but please make sure you inform our guides of this before you take the tour.