Imilchil Betrothal Fair – Imilchil, Middle Atlas Mountains, Morocco

The Berbers’ Singles Scene

Scattered among the remote villages of the Atlas Mountains, the nomadic Berber tribes maintain the ancient customs of their ancestors. The most emblematic ritual is the betrothal ceremony at the annual Imilchil fair.

Having spent spring and the hot summer days in the mountains with their flocks, neigh­boring clans return to the verdant plain of Imilchil every September to settle in for the winter and to celebrate with this much- awaited social gathering, a kind of marriage mart.

Singles come to find and be found: young men dressed in white djellabahs, displaying their most precious silver daggers; girls wearing modest dresses and handiras capes, heavily hand-embroidered and acces­sorized with as much jewelry as befits their family’s position.

It is the girls who do the browsing, making small talk; a young girl may take the hand of a handsome young man and lead him about, giggling and asking ques­tions. If she decides he’s a kindred soul, they walk to the scribes’ tent, the two families close in to negotiate, and that evening the couple is married. The fair lasts just three days, and the music and dancing make it feel like one large wedding reception.

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