Desert nights: how Marrakech’s party scene is taking root

A wave of new electronic festivals are fuelling the clubbing scene in Morocco, where traditional culture fuses with underground music scenes

I cut my hand on a cactus as I was rushing to see Nicolas Jaar. There was the smell of rosemary and lavender on the desert air. Guided by a booming kick drum, I arrived at the rectangular pool that reflects the main stage of Oasis festival. As I joined the sweating crowd, a smooth electro track drifted into a soaring Arabic a cappella. A young Moroccan woman in a vest top that said “Detroit Hustles Harder” danced alone nearby. As Jaar slammed into a techno groove, thousands of hands flew into the air, beyond them the half-smile of a moon was almost lost among the stars. I instantly forgot about my injury.

European tourists have long come to Marrakech, chasing a fantasy of exotic Moroccan culture. And they find it: people in Djemaa el-Fna square really do charm cobras and pile colourful spices into gravity-defying pyramids. But over the past three years another kind of tourist has been visiting Morocco. Spurred by a wave of new electronic music festivals, the country’s clubbing scene has jumped into the spotlight, pulling in the kind of crowd who might usually spend their long weekends in Berlin or Amsterdam.

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