What started as an annual marriage festival has become an economic boon for a tiny Berber village, Imilchil, tucked into the foothills of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
According to legend, a man and a woman from different tribes fell in love, but were forbidden from marrying. Out of grief, they cried themselves to death, creating the nearby lakes of Tislit and Isli, meaning bride and groom.
Poor conditions and harsh geography have led many residents to seek employment in bigger towns, but the annual festival and the tradition surrounding it helps keep the village of 2,000 going. Dozens of couples from places too small to have government offices gather to have their marriages legalized, while other young people hope to find partners. It’s a 10-hour, mountainous drive 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Rabat, Morocco’s capital.
Today, the event is arranged to coincide with a large three-day market that marks the end of the harvest season. For the local tribe of Ait Hadidou, this market is the main event, overshadowing the marriage ceremonies as it helps to sustain the small region for the next year.