Learning the Word Surrender at the Fes Festival of Sacred Music

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Ever since I heard about the Fes Festival of Sacred Music, I wanted to go. I love devotional music of all kinds, the less I understand the words, the better. I coincided my trip with the festival so I could experience it for a few days. I knew I couldn’t hit up everything I wanted to see but even if I saw a few shows and was just in the atmosphere, I would be satisfied.

The Fes Festival of World Sacred Music is one of the signature events of the Spirit of Fes Foundation. The aim of this Festival is to harness the arts and spirituality in the service of human and social development, and the relationship between peoples and cultures. The 20th edition of the Festival ran from June 13 to 21 2014, with: The Conference of the Birds, “Journey of Cultures…” as its theme.

I had heard many stories from other travelers about Fes: the hassles, hustles, and fake guides were legend. I arrived by bus from Chefchauen and promptly hopped in a taxi. Wandering around the labyrinthine medina was my favorite. I never got hassled the entire time I was there.

The concerts were mostly free and in abundance. You only had to wander a bit, pick up the faint trail of music, and follow it to its origin. I saw some not so stellar music (a young painter who threw paint on the canvas, yawnfest) but there was enough great music music to make up for it (some local Fassi band with killer yellow shoes on). I missed Johnny Clegg and Youssou N’Dour as they were sold out. I had to pass on the Sufi Nights part too as the concerts started around 11pm and I had walked myself into a coma each day and was entirely too exhausted by that time to even contemplate leaving my bed.

The thing I miss most about Fes was the people I met. I thought the festival would be the main draw, that was the thing that I would remember for the next 10 years. But as the Universe constantly teaches me, it’s the things that are subtle, the people that smile at me in passing, the exchange of cultures with strangers. Those are the experiences that stay with me. Islam means “surrender”.

The Sufis abandon themselves to the ecstasy of God. Travel is really about these things too. One has to surrender and abandon oneself to the Universe. If you do, you will see divine spirit in everyone and everything. Just open your eyes and surrender.

Photo credit: Jazz Times.