Moroccan festival for the Sufi culture emphasises spirituality

May 2008 -

"There are a lot of misunderstandings about the Sufi culture. Not really surprising: Sufi is a relatively comprehensive and complicated term. Perhaps the best way to describe it is the mystical school within the Islam that strives to transcend religion. A Sufi devotes his life to serving others because it brings him closer to God. The spirituality and many types of expression of the Sufi culture, in poetry, visual arts and philosophy, show an extremely tolerant side of the Islam that deserves more attention", says Nayla Khalek of the Festival de Fès de la Culture Soufie.


Ensemble Rabi’A

Fès is the traditional cultural, religious and intellectual capital of Morocco. Music lovers primarily associate the city with the Festival des Music Sacrées du Monde. Initially that festival showcased primarily dedicated music, but these days various world music artists also perform there. This is why the first Festival de Fès de la Culture Soufie was held in 2006.

Khalek: "Sufism is practised throughout the world and has been gaining popularity for many years. It was first seen in Mohammed's era. The thirteenth-century Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi is one of the most influential names in the Sufi culture. Our festival is intended to draw attention to pure Sufism. The programme consists of strictly religious music and is framed by films, presentations, debates and round-table discussions. The festival is also an attempt to draw tourists to Fès in a different way. To an increasing degree, people want to see more than the gratuitous exotica of other cultures, and are looking for spiritual enrichment."

The second edition of the festival, held from 17 to 24 April 2008, boasted performances including by musical ensembles from Iran, Syria, Egypt and Morocco. Striking was the audience's response to the concerts. One of the performing groups was the Ensemble Rabi'A, which consisted of nine women from West Africa, the Maghreb countries and France. Their songs were not very special from a musical perspective, but most of the members of the audience joined in, singing at the tops of their lungs.

Khalek is satisfied with how the festival went. "Although not everyone will be interested in Sufism, we certainly see ways to continue to develop the festival in the years to come."