Rabat has been abuzz this week due to the Mawazine Festival, which brings scores of musicians from around the world to play nightly concerts at a few different venues throughout the city. The most well-known ones are set up around large, outdoor stages– Souissi, for the big-name international stars (e.g. Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Pitbull), the Nahda and Salé stages for the Arab World and Moroccan local stars respectively, and another on the Bouregreg River, for African / Afro-Latino beats.
Except for a VIP section closer to the stage at a couple locales, the shows are free! On one hand, this is awesome. But on the other, it can make the concerts– particularly in Souissi — far too crowded and rowdy for comfort. Groups of teenage thugs go there for a combination of partying and trouble-making, including rock throwing (which has also occurred at soccer games here). It’s definitely not recommended for women to go there alone. I did go to Souissi to see world famous Algerian singer Cheb Khaled, known as “The King of Rai,” with an American friend of mine, but we were fortunate to have our own teenage bodyguard to protect us from the other teenage boys. Actually, he was the 17 year-old brother of my friend’s friend. It was sufficient enough. I enjoyed the concert, though not sure I would repeat the experience. Being that far back from the stage, you might as well watch the show on TV from the comfort of your home. My friend wanted to wait to see Khaled play her favorite song of his, “Aicha.” Of course, this is also his most famous song, and singers always save the best for last. So we waited until the very end of the concert to hear it, and then made our exit, in a mad rush together with the swarms of concert go-ers.
Perhaps the exception to the craziness of Mawazine is the Bouregreg venue. I went earlier tonight and greatly enjoyed it. There was a full and lively audience, but it still seemed rather calm. I saw relatively high percentages of families with kids, as well as expats (perhaps because the rowdy crew went to see Mariah Carey in Souissi instead). But it still had a festive atmosphere, with many swaying and clapping to the music of Chiwoniso, a Zimbabwean group.