Palais el-Badi, Marrakesh, Morocco
Five days in mid-July; exact dates vary.
With snake-charmers and marketers cawing ‘lovely jubbly’ at passing English tourists on Djemaa el-Fna square, bustling Marrakesh is rather like a year-round festival. The colour and pace intensify during the Popular Arts Festival, when performers from across the North African nation use the city as an alfresco venue.
Sauntering across Djemaa el-Fna in search of dreamy orange juice stands, you come across even more fire-swallowers, fortune-tellers and folk singers than usual. Look out for Berber musicians and dancers from High Atlas, Andalucian-style songsters from the Spanish-influenced, and the hypnotic Gnaouas drummers from the south.
The main gathering point for performers from acting troupes to acrobats is Palais el-Badi. Built by Ahmed al-Mansour between 1578 and 1602, the now-ruined palace was reputed to be one of the most beautiful in the world and well deserved its name, the Incomparable. Every evening, a fantasia (choreographed military display on Arabian horses) takes place in a field near the palace.
3 – sip a mint tea and take in the Maghrebi culture.
A pavilion in Palais el-Badi houses a 12th-century treasure, the beautifully restored minbar (pulpit) from the Koutoubia that inspired so many Arab and Andalucian poets.