The Gnawa Festival Photo Expedition

Cost: $2555(twin share based on 8 members), $280 (Single Supplement), $150 (Tip Kitty for fixers, musicians, etc)

Essaouira, formerly known by its Portuguese name, Mogador, is the main destination for The Gnawa Festival Photo Expedition. Beloved by Moroccans for its beauty, its near-perfect climate — even during the African summer, the ocean breeze keeps the ancient city pleasant in the day and cool at night — and its friendly inhabitants.

During the Essaouira June music festival, the small town is host to 25 Moroccan Gnawa musical brotherhoods, whose exuberant, hypnotically rhythmic and joy-infused music draws an estimated 400,000 fans from Morocco and across North Africa, Europe and North America. There are also 30 other jazz fusion, rock, reggae, African, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban and hip-hop acts from more than a dozen countries performing on the stages in and around Essaouira’s walled, maze-like medina.

Gnawa (or Gnaoua) is a word used to define a Moroccan music style and a Muslim religious brotherhood. The patron saint of the Gnawa is Bilal al Habashi, an Ethiopian who was the first African to convert to Islam and its first muezzin.

Unlike other music festivals, the Gnawa festival’s setting, in a small, friendly and almost impossibly picturesque, wind-cooled seaside city, is as magical and mesmerizing as the music. Essaouira’s medina is small, and no cars are allowed within its walls. It’s small enough to easily walk from end to end, and its narrow alleys are incredibly photogenic. The predominant colors of its walls are white and its arabesque doors are indigo-blue.

The objectives of our Gnawa Festival Photo-Expedition are many; in the daylight hours, we will seek to photograph the daily street life of the medina, the Gnawa processions and rehearsals, while in the evenings we intend to photograph the actual gigs that make the Festival such a unique venue. All of the gigs are on stages within walking distance from each other.

We will also travel to photograph in Marrakesh, the fabled pink city with Arab, Berber and African influences…the city of labyrinthine alleyways and medieval walls. We will photograph in its streets, and spend time in the Djema El-Fna, where all kinds of performers capitvate the crowds. Also on our itinerary is the desert city of Ourzazate, gateway to the desert and to Africa.

The Gnawa Festival Photo-Expedition is ideal for participants interested in multimedia, and willing to create visual projects from their inventory of photographs, and learn how to control story length, intent, pace, use of music and ambient sound, narration, field recordings and interviews.

Multimedia Audio Slideshow Of Gnawa: The African Sufis

Important Notice: The Gnawa Festival Photo-Expedition is limited to 10 photographers on a “first registered first in” basis. I’m unable to accept any more due to limited accommodation in the riad (hotel).