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How a Doomed Love Sparked Morocco's Prominent Marriage Festival

Ling Tang / © Culture Trip
Ling Tang / © Culture Trip
The biggest marriage festival in the world takes place in Imilchil, Morocco. Originating from a love tragedy, this is a celebration that allows young Moroccans to find their soulmates.

The Marriage Festival, or moussem, is an annual event enjoyed by many people from Imilchil and the nearby villages, when they can exchange livestock, agricultural and handicraft products, enjoy a big feast to the sound of traditional music and dance the day away .

Originally, only family members of the tribe could attend the event, but as the festival grew more popular, it started attracting people from all over the world, who now attend every September. During this time, Imilchil turns into a place of acceptance, love, joy and tradition, which makes the experience truly magical.

Ling Tang / © Culture Trip

Today, the Marriage Festival is an important event for the village, as it promotes tourism and attracts many visitors from all around the world. This in turn generates new sources of income and in recent years, the governor even started offering a prize of 700 MAD ($75) to couples who married at the festival.

The story behind the moussem is that of two lovers from different tribes who were prohibited from being together. As a result, they cried in agony for months, until each formed a lake of tears and drowned in it. The lakes that were formed were named after them, Isli meaning bride and Tislit, groom.

The legend continues that even after death, their souls could not be together due to the mountain separating them. The parents of all the nearby villages stopped forcing marriages among their children and started letting women choose their own partner.

Ling Tang / © Culture Trip

From this came the famous Festival of Marriage of Imilchil, when girls and boys dress up in traditional clothing to pick their future partner.