Fez Festival unites region's cultures, religions, traditions

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FEZ, Morocco -- Western music and Islamic traditions come together this summer between June 23 and July 1 during the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music.

The multicultural lineup of performers ranges from opera diva Wilhelminia Fernandez to Bobby Jones and the Campbell Brothers on steel guitars.

From other corners of the world will come the sacred songs of Algeria and Morocco, a Hassidic repertoire and Jewish Andalusian traditional music, twirling Sufi dervishes, French gypsy religious songs, Gregorian chants, Greek opera and Indian devotional music.

The Fez Festival was launched after the Persian Gulf War to show that music can be a force for harmonizing cultures.

Concert venues will showcase many of the historic attractions that led to the designation of Fez as a Unesco World Heritage site, such as the Bar Batha Moorish palace and the Bab Makina (the king's 14th century palace reception court), as well as the Roman ruins of Volubilis outside the city.

Fez is three hours by car from Casablanca and 1,000 years back in time.

Clients can plan a few days around the festival and still find time to explore this first imperial city, the soul of Morocco and its intellectual, religious and artistic capital for the Islamic and Jewish peoples.

While there is a modern Fez with a fine, elaborate royal palace, the city's heart is Fez el Bali, the definitive medina.

Along narrow, twisting streets in the heart of the old city, there is a commercial order to the seeming confusion: tanners have their own odiferous quarter, the metal workers their sunny square, the dyers their alley.

Within the vast marketplace, artisans fashion copperware, embroidered caftans and decorative leather goods; also for sale are fine rugs, old silver jewelry, ceramics and old bits of furniture.

Fez is as much about religion as it is about commerce, and there are 14 medersas (Koranic schools, of which the architectural superstar is the Bou Inania Medersa) in Fez el Bali, and a number of mosques, the oldest of which is the ninth century Kairaouine Mosque.

While the Royal Palace is closed to visitors, a visit to the Museum of Moroccan Arts gives some idea of how royalty lived a century ago.

Historic chambers are filled with everything from medieval Arabic astrolabes to local carpets and costumes.

Royal Air Maroc, in cooperation with hotels in Fez, is offering festival packages that include air, three- to nine-night stays with accommodations, a half-board meal plan, entry to all concerts, films and exhibitions, airport transfers and transport to Festival venues.

U.S. tour operators with programs to Morocco also will be a good source for booking stays in Fez at the time of the Festival.

Royal Air Maroc
Phone: (800) 344-6726

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