Horse-drawn carriages, bands and dancers took to the streets of Marrakesh on Wednesday in celebration of Morocco’s annual National Popular Arts Festival.
The five-day event kicked off with traditional musicians and dancers from around Morocco dressed in a colorful theme which moved through the ancient city.
The participants celebrated in a three-kilometre-long parade which ended at Jamaa El Fna square and market, known not only for its food stalls but also for its traditional storytellers and snake charmers.
Foreign tourists found themselves enriched with the entertainment on offer.
French tourist Martine Daniel said she was impressed by the parade. "It is really superb. We have never seen this before. In France, we don't have anything like this. It is really magnificent, beautiful and well done. Super. I have nothing to say. They definitely worked hard on it," she said.
Her husband, Herve Daniel, said he and his wife, who were taking a week-long holiday in Marrakesh, had not been expecting to witness such a colorful event.
"We were not expecting this, not at all. We have carnivals in France, but not like this. Very beautiful costumes. It's perfect," he said.
The annual event was first held in 1960, originally called the "Folklore Festival of Marrakesh," which highlighted traditional and cultural diversity from various parts of Morocco.
Over the years the popular festival has come to be known as the prime showcase for regional Moroccan traditions illustrated through music, dancing and local costumes worn by participating performers from all over the country.
Six hundred artists from 18 Moroccan musical and dance bands are taking part in the festival at the historic Badii Palace.
Brahim El Mzaned, this year's festival artistic director says they have to find a way of attracting young people to the event to safeguard and perpetuate traditional popular arts.
Mzaned said: "This year, we are working on reviving the bands. Usually, young people are not very keen on traditional music but we are witnessing that more and more of them are taking interest in this music and in popular arts. They are also showing interest in the cultural diversity and this is very important," he said.
But the challenge facing the festival's organizers is how to preserve traditional artistic guidelines but still appeal to the younger crowds who no longer identify themselves with traditional music and other time-honoured art forms.
Mohammed Nait Ali the festival's director said involving young people in the parade and stage performances have helped in bridging the gap between the artistic tastes of the young and old.
The festival, which ends on June 24, has a variety of performances, stalls selling traditional items and musical workshops available to the general public as well as visitors.