Essaouira, (Morocco), Asharq Al-Awsat – Shahbanu Farah Pahlavi, the Empress of Iran, widow of the late Shah, is just one of many guests who have turned out to attend the 11th Gnaoua and World Music Festival that is currently underway in Essaouira, south west Morocco.
The festival began last Thursday evening, June 26, and will last for three days. Other attendees include Andre Azoulay, senior adviser to King Mohammed VI and president of the Essaouira-Mogador Association, which organizes the festival. Touriya Jabrane, the Moroccan Minister of Culture and Mohamed Boussaid, the Minister of Tourism, Handicrafts and Social Economy, as well as the governor of Essaouira, Abdesalam Bikrat, are also taking part in the festival.
A procession started at Dar Souiri, the entrance point of the ancient city of Essaouira, and headed towards Moulay Hassan Place where the festival’s opening ceremony was being held.
Along the way, Shahbanu Farah Pahlavi accompanied by her son Prince Reza Pahlavi, his wife and other members of the Pahlavi family watched the performances of various Gnaoua groups and other examples of Moroccan folklore.
The Gnaoua are said to be descendants of sub-Saharan African slaves and are musicians and healers who established brotherhoods throughout Morocco. Gnaoua groups are made up of master musicians, metal castanet players, clairvoyants, mediums and their followers.
At the opening ceremony of the festival, Touriya Jabrane, Morocco’s Minister of Culture described Essaouira as a “city of wind and history” and stated that the festival presents a “strong and joyful image of Morocco along with its deep civilization and its work towards strengthening religious coexistence and dialogue between different cultures.”
Shahbanu Farah Pahlavi took in the various aspects of the festival and watched the Palestinian Oud [lute] performance by Le Trio Joubrane that was held at Dar Souiri where she sat with Andre Azoulay’s wife, Katia, and with the people of Essaouira listening to the melodious sounds of the Palestinian Oud.