Gnawa: Sacred Music of Morocco

Historically, the term Gnawa (Gnaoua in French) refers to the descendants of black slaves in Morocco, the mystical Islam they practice, and the music used in their religious ritual.

Slaves were brought into Morocco from Sub-Saharan West Africa beginning around the end of the 16th century. Enormous gold-wealth and thriving trade networks fueled two great empires, first Ghana (parts of modern Mauritania and Mali), from around the 8th century to the 11th century, and then the Empire of Mali, from the 11th century to the end of the 16th century. In 1591, Timbuktu, a major city of the Mali Empire and a center of Islamic scholarship, was conquered by mercenary armies for Morocco. Mali declined steadily from there and Morocco began to import its people to work as soldiers and imperial domestic slaves. Continue reading


Pictured above is Essaouira, a walled, seaside city on the Atlantic coast of our mystery country. Crystalline light and wide vistas have been attracting visual artists for decades, maybe centuries. Musicians and writers are drawn here too, including Beat poets and 60s rockers. The annual Gnaoua Festival celebrates the sacred music of the, Gnaoua (Gnawa) people, the descendants of slaves brought to Morocco from Sub-Saharan West Africa. Surfers love the near-constant wind, sunbathers, not so much. Besides the wind and music festival, visit for the scenery, the low-key medina and fresh fish.

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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All the clues in this post refer to one Ya’lla Tours destination: Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Turkey, or United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai).

We’ll show you images of popular tourist sites in our mystery country, along with descriptions of those sites. Continue reading