Archive for Festivals from around the world

Inti Raymi; The Festival of the Sun, blog written by Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs

Guardians of the largest empire ever to sweep across the Americas, the origins of the Inca are shrouded in myth and magic. Believed to have been created by the Sun God, the Inca race rose from the waters of Lake Titicaca to create an empire that, at its peak, stretched from the banks of the Rio Maule in central Chile to encompass most of present-day Ecuador, Peru, western Bolivia, northern Chile and north-west Argentina; a dominion of some 980,000 square kilometres.

The sun therefore, as you might imagine, played a huge part in Incan culture. It was the giver of life and the sun god, Inti, ranked second only to the great spirit, Viracocha, the God of Civilisation himself. No surprise then that, in ancient times, Inti Raymi was one of the most important festivals in the Incan calendar. It was held at the winter solstice, when the sun was at its farthest point from the earth and the thought of famine and the swift return of the sun’s life-giving rays were uppermost in the minds of the people. It was a time of sacrifice, feasting and pagan ritual.

With the Spanish conquest though the ritual was banned by the Catholic Church and the last royal Inti Raymi was held in 1535. For the next 400 years the celebrations went underground, until they were revived again in 1944, since when, it has been held every year since. Celebrated on the 24 June, today the festival has grown to become the second largest in South America, taking on the role of a pageant with hundreds of actors playing the main characters and the streets of Cusco filled with street fairs, dancing and music.

Beginning in Qoricancha, on the site of the former sun temple, the pageant winds its way along flower strewn avenues, passing into the Plaza de Armas and up towards the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuamán, where the elaborately dressed nobles and high priests perform the ancient rituals and sacrifices in front of crowds of thousands of onlookers. The sacrificial lamas of old have been replaced with something a little less gruesome, as have the reading of the auguries from their bloody entrails, but the visual spectacular still evokes something of the majesty of the ceremony of old and, as the pageant retraces its steps back into the city, the new year begins with the Inca bestowing the sun’s blessing on the citizens of Cusco, after which, the celebrations can begin in earnest!

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Veteran Charity Challenge Team Leader Trevor Gibbs writes about the thrill of Morocco’s Fez Sacred Music festival

Morocco is one of North Africa’s most popular destinations and Fez is probably one of its most fascinating cities. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest of Morocco’s imperial strongholds, Fez bears the distinction of being the country’s cultural and spiritual capital. This is a city whose rich history is liberally sprinkled with tales of murder and intrigue and whose bustling souks have echoed to the sounds of trade for centuries. What better place then to hold one of the world’s most widely acclaimed musical festivals.

Held in June each year, the Fez Sacred Music Festival is a coming together of some of the world’s most accomplished artists; a place where you can hear Moroccan Sufi chants, Pakistani qawwali and Egyptian madhi poems, set against the backdrop of one of the most complete medieval cities left in the Arab world. Bringing together a rich diversity of musical talent, the festival perfectly encapsulates the long traditions of art, knowledge and spirituality that have been the mainstay of this city for generations. This is the 18th year that the city has held the festival and its theme is ‘Re-enchanting the World’ and pays special tribute to the great Persian poet, Omar Khayyam.

During the eight days of celebration, Fez takes on a carnival atmosphere, offering up free concerts in the expansive setting of the city’s Boujloud Square, as well as ‘Sufi Nights’ in the more spiritual surroundings of the Dar Tazi Gardens, in the centre of the ancient medina. In addition there are also a number of exhibitions to be found throughout the city, highlighting the unique fusion of art and knowledge that has distinguished Fez as one of the Muslim world’s most spiritual settings since the beginning of its golden period during the latter years of the 11th century.

In conjunction with its musical performances, the festival also runs a number of educational and artistic programmes, for adults and children alike.

This year’s festival runs from the 9th-16th June.

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